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Macron Proposes Restricting Social Media Access Amid Riots in France


French President Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion to have the ability to block social media access during riots has ignited a backlash in France. Critics argue that this move resembles the tactics used by authoritarian regimes. Macron made these comments during a meeting with mayors from towns affected by ongoing protests. He accused platforms like Snapchat, TikTok, and Telegram of contributing to the riots that followed the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old of North African descent. Macron proposed regulating or suspending social media as needed, but clarified that this would not be done “in the heat of the moment.” The government’s spokesperson, Olivier Véran, confirmed these reports. However, Véran stated that Macron did not necessarily mean a complete blackout, but rather the suspension of certain functions temporarily. Macron expressed concerns about the mapping tools offered by TikTok and Snapchat, as he believes they can be used by rioters to monitor events and organize illicit gatherings. Opposition politicians, including conservative parliamentary chief Olivier Marleix and France Unbowed chief Mathilde Panot, have criticized Macron’s comments. Even within Macron’s own Renaissance party, there have been voices of dissent. Lawmaker Eric Bothorel, who specializes in tech policy, called the suggestion a mistake and maintained that democracy should be stronger than the tools used against it. Critics argue that Macron’s comments set a dangerous precedent and may undermine democracy and its core values. No European country currently blocks social media, although some, like Belarus, Spain, Turkey, and Ukraine, restrict it to some extent. Spain, for example, passed a decree in 2019 that allows the government to shut down websites and social media platforms deemed threats to public order or national security. In Russia, digital services like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok were restricted following the invasion of Ukraine last year. France already has regulations in place that allow the government to order the removal of child pornography, terrorism-related content, and other “hateful” material from social networks within specified timeframes. However, the definition of what constitutes hateful content can be subjective. In light of the recent riots, some lawmakers are attempting to tighten social media controls as part of a revision to the internet bill, which is currently being discussed in parliament and expected to be finalized in the fall. Proposed amendments aim to force social networks to block access to content inciting violence within two hours. Critics argue that while platforms often fail to adequately address the dissemination of incitement to violence, excessive regulation can deepen existing inequalities and create further divisions in French society. In 2020, France’s constitutional court struck down several legal measures related to hate speech, citing violations of the right to freedom of expression. Jean-Noël Barrot, a minister responsible for digital transition and telecommunications, expressed strong opposition to the proposed amendment, stating that it carries a high risk of being unconstitutional. He argued that if curtailing freedom of expression is deemed necessary to address social unrest, then the right approach has not been found.


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