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19th Oct 2020

Macron vows law against fake news

  • Macron wants tougher social media rules (Photo: rawpixel.com)

French president Emmanuel Macron is seeking to give authorities powers to remove or block social media content deemed as fake news during election seasons.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday (3 January), Macron said the plan is needed to protect liberal democracies following Russian-led attempts to thwart his own presidential campaign last year.

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"There will be increased transparency requirements for internet platforms regarding sponsored content, with the aim of making public the identity of those who place the ads and also limiting the amount of them," he said.

The proposal is part of an envisioned law to ban fake news, which would also empower a judge to remove content or block a site. France's media watchdog, the CSA, would also have sway over foreign-operated TV stations.

A UK-based firm, Bakamo, found in a survey published last year that one in four internet links shared by French users of social media in the lead-up to the elections was fake news. The links favoured anti-EU candidates like Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Bakamo also found that Russian state media giants like RT and Sputnik had been spreading and influencing some of the anti-EU content.

Marion Marechal-Le Pen, at the time, had shared a fake news story that claimed Macron's campaign was being part financed by Saudi Arabia. The link redirected the reader to an article designed to look legitimate, which was posted on a cloned copy of the Belgian daily newspaper Le Soir.

EUobserver had also viewed 2,951 examples of Russian fake news, most of which was aimed at condoning Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, or its military forays into Syria.

Others included fake stories of rape or violence by migrants. Among the more egregious was the rape of a 13-year old Russian girl in Germany by migrants, which turned out to be entirely fabricated but was still reported as fact by Russian media and the Russian foreign ministry.

German law confuses satire with hate speech

Macron's anti-fake news plans follows a new German online hate speech law. Social media companies that fail to remove such posts in Germany within 24 hours could be fined €50 million.

But the German law, which was launched on 1 January, is already creating problems for confusing satire with hate speech.

Titantic, a German satirical magazine, had its Twitter account blocked on Wednesday after poking fun at Beatrix von Storch, a member of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Von Storch had earlier in the week made disparaging remarks on Twitter about Muslims, which Titantic then mocked in a follow up Tweet.

The Association of German Journalists (DJV) described Titantic's blocked Twitter account as censorship.

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