Friday, December 23, 2016
France Considers Ways to Deal With Problematic Online Content, While Preserving Free Speech
Two French senators have introduced an initiative aimed at creating an ombudsman to make rulings on whether online material is inappropriate and should be removed, while at the same time aiming to preserve free speech.
“There is a lot of content freely accessible,” Senator Nathalie Goulet said during a meeting to discuss the plan, “Some is about radicalization and other about pedophilia. Who decides when content is legal or not?”
Goulet and another senator, Olivier Cadic, are promoting legislation which, if adopted by parliament after presidential elections next year, aims to help internet service providers, web hosting and social media companies to determine whether the content they publish is legal or not.
The proposal is for an ombudsman to be appointed for a six-year period from among members of an independent administrative regulatory body that is tasked with ensuring that data privacy law is applied to the collection, storage, and use of personal data.
Internet companies will be encouraged to seek the ombudsman’s opinion when in doubt about material to be published.
A company that wants to consult the ombudsman will have to get in touch by email or regular mail, asking about the content in question.
The ombudsman, who may work with a translator if the material is in another language, will provide an opinion in a maximum of seven days. The response will be based on the law but will be an opinion only, with no obligation that it must be followed.
Audrey Herblin-Stoop, head of public policy at Twitter France, acknowledged that “terrorist organizations use our platform to spread terrorist messages” and attempt to brainwash people.
She told the meeting that Twitter has blocked 260,000 “terrorist accounts.”
Google France welcomed the ombudsman proposal.
“It is a hard work to find illicit content quickly and get rid of it,” said Thibault Guiroy, the company’s public policy manager and head of government relations.