French MPs back proposal to give online platforms 24 hours to remove hate speech
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French MPs back proposal to give online platforms 24 hours to remove hate speech

MPs vote to adopt article of proposed law to force social media giants to remove hateful content or face hefty fines; Jewish group hails legislation as ‘positive direction’

This picture taken on July 3, 2019 shows a general view of a session at the French National Assembly in Paris, France's parliament. (Stephane De Sakutin/AFP)
This picture taken on July 3, 2019 shows a general view of a session at the French National Assembly in Paris, France's parliament. (Stephane De Sakutin/AFP)

French MPs on Thursday backed a proposal to give online platforms just 24 hours to remove hate speech or face hefty fines, the latest initiative in Europe to tackle online racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and homophobia.

Members of the lower house of parliament voted by 31 in favor to six against to adopt the first article of a new law proposed by President Emmanuel Macron’s party, which is modeled on a similar German law. Four MPs abstained.

Social media sites that fail to comply with the law risk fines of up to 1.25 million euros ($1.4 million)

A final vote on the full text is expected next Tuesday.

French Member of Parliament for Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche (LREM) party Laetitia Avia speaks during a session of the French National Assembly in Paris, on July 3, 2019. (Stephane De Sakutin/AFP)

“We should not tolerate on the internet what we do not tolerate on the street,” Laetitia Avia, the black MP who drafted the bill, told parliament on Wednesday, adding that she herself could no longer bear being racially abused by social media trolls.

The CRIF umbrella group of French Jews hailed the bill as “going in a positive direction.”

Critics say the law places too much power in the platforms’ hands by making them arbiters of online speech.

MPs debated the bill late into the night Wednesday to try to agree on what constitutes “obviously hateful” messages or videos.

They agreed to include condoning crimes against humanity, but not hateful comments about the state of Israel. It is unclear whether this will be covered by legislation later this year on definitions of anti-Semitism.

Other parts of the bill include a proposal to create an identical button across all social media platforms and search engines enabling users to flag messages that are “obviously” hateful and illegal.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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