Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

French Assemblée nationale debates law on “Fake News”.

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Image result for loi sur le fake news dessin

Not Good Company for Macron.

Taking aim at so-called fake news, France’s Parliament on Thursday is set to begin debating a tough bill aimed at repressing phony news items, one pushed by President Emmanuel Macron amid criticism that it poses a potential threat to press freedom.

The measure would allow judges to block content deemed false during a three-month period preceding an election.

Mr. Macron, stung last year by a phony internet-spread story claiming he had an offshore account in the Bahamas, has made fighting “fake news” a priority. His opponent, the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, brought up the Bahamas story during a critical presidential debate. Now, she is attacking the proposed law as a “liberty killer.”

Shortly after the new year, Mr. Macron told a press gathering that he would aim to “protect our democracy from these false stories” by cracking down on phony reports.

New York Times.Adam Nossiter

Libération reports today (Fake news : une loi qui fonce la tête dans le bidon Amaelle Guiton , Jérôme Lefilliâtre)

Originally supposed to fight “against false information” (contre les fausses informations) , the bill to be discussed on Thursday in the National Assembly was renamed to target “the manipulation of information.”(la manipulation de l’information).

This change of name was decided in view of the law’s stated objective of reacting to “destabilisation operations” carried out by foreign powers (Russia, especially), whereas in first formula appeared to many as a possible way of making news conform to what the authorities in place consider to be the truth.

There are many problems.

The first is that the main axis of the law , “creates two tools supposed to fight against the large-scale dissemination of false info that could compromise the “integrity of  of an election” (scrutin).

In other words the law is aimed at allegations of outside interference in electoral contests (one can also imagine Britain’s vote on Brexit would serve as an ideal-typical example).

Digital platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, “will have to indicate the identity of the customers who paid for the stories, as well as the sums involved,  to promote “information related to a debate of general interest”.

The other instrument put in place, more formally legal, attacks the propagation of false information.

During the same pre-election period, a judge in a legal hearing may within within forty-eight hours, ” lay down all proportionate measures necessary to stop the dissemination of this false information.

One can imagine that any democratic legal system is not equipped to deal with such cases so rapidly.

The second is that the law increases the powers to sanction of the Superior council of audio-visual (CSA) with regard to the audio-visual media “controlled by a foreign state or under the influence of this State” if they have been found being guilty of a false info. This implicitly targets, the Russian TV channel RT.

The text presented this Thursday is limited to specific periods and limited cases. For example, the judge will only be able to rule if false information is “disseminated in bad faith, artificially or automatically and massively”,that is, if it is the product of a deliberate strategy.

How this could operate in the face of a sophisticated operation like RT is hard to see. What is false and what is not? The Russian media outlet gives a platform to far-right and nationalist ‘republican’ politicians in France, far-right and anti-European ‘left’ politicians in the UK. It carries endless stories about ‘Chaos Europe’, and stokes fear of migration. It hosts pro-Russian, and pro-Assad voices, and some claiming to campaign to the Stop the War in Syria. t broadcasts opinion-news on the turmoil in the Middle East more widely, and extends its operations across the world. Most obviously it boosts Putin’s immediate interests in Russia itself. I

Which part of this web of misinformation, fear-stoking and promotion of divisions in European society could a law bring to a halt?

These and other obvious ambiguities in the law have already resulted in amendments.

More are expected today, while the whole principle of legislating against Fake News is questionable.

As Hervé Saulignac states in the New York Times piece,

“The potential risk in this law is if it winds up in the hands of a government with the wrong motives,” said Hervé Saulignac, a Socialist member of Parliament who is leading the opposition. “That’s where it could lead to catastrophe.”

Mr. Saulignac said, “There is no clear frontier in the law between journalists who follow the rules, and all the rest.” Mainstream journalists, he said, “could be attacked for fake news, simply because, for instance, you have attacked me.”

Beyond that, he said, “How can it be proved in just 48 hours that I don’t have an account in the Bahamas?”

“At a time when the press is threatened around the world, it is better to protect the press,” Mr. Saulignac said.

le Monde is of a similar opinion, stating that a Law cannot settle the issue of Fake News>

Loi sur les « Fake news » : la confiance dans l’information ne se décrète pas

More background: Fake news : une loi pour rien ?

 

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

June 7, 2018 at 12:09 pm

3 Responses

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  1. What has any of this got to do with socialism?
    Even the article states the law cannot work.

    Steven Johnston

    June 7, 2018 at 2:25 pm


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