France wants to take a new step in its fight against hate speech in social networks. Emmanuel Macron announced, on Monday, November 12, a speech in the Forum on Internet Governance, the establishment of a joint working group with Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg's group accepted a six-month experiment in early 2019 in which representatives of the French authorities could access Facebook tools, methods and staff to hunt racist and anti-Semitic content. homophobic or sexist. "It is a first. And a very innovative experimental vision, which illustrates the cooperative method it defends, explained Emmanuel Macron.
This group of a dozen people will consist of the same number of Facebook employees and members: engineers, lawyers … – from the French authorities: Arce, in charge of telecommunications and technical regulation of the Internet; the Higher Audiovisual Council (CSA), responsible in particular for the contents of televisions and radios; Dinsic's interministerial management of information and communication systems …
Operation that is not clear
For Elysee, experience will be a way to"Certify if the company is in good faith and makes the necessary efforts" fight against the content of hatred. this is "Pilot Experience" It should allow for a permanent and in-depth dialogue between the social network and the authorities, whose discussions are so complex and intermittent. Emmanuel Macron's entourage cites as an inspiration the regulation of the banking or nuclear sectors, where public officials control the processes of the affected companies.
Questions of respect for the privacy or business privacy could arise
However, the introduction of this group raises many questions. Also in discussion with the Elysee, Google has also found it premature to commit now in the same approach. The operation of the group created with Facebook is not yet clear at this time: its work program will be in its first meetings. You will not have powers of request and the exact perimeter of the internal information to which you will have access will depend on the goodwill of the social network. Questions of respect for the privacy or business privacy could arise. In general, it is still difficult to predict if the project will provide interesting results.
On Facebook, make sure that the members can, if necessary, go to Ireland, Dublin, to the European company headquarters or to the United States, at Silicon Valley, at the headquarters of Menlo Park. In addition, someone wonders if the approach could inspire other states to request the same access to Facebook processes.
According to Elysée as Facebook, the genesis of this working group goes back to the May debate held between CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Emmanuel Macron, at the summit Technology for good, in Paris. The president of the Republic explained to the head of the social network that it would be better to work to avoid voting for a text like the law established in early 2018 by Germany: it exposes platforms to high fines if they do not eliminate violent content quickly.
For his part, the Facebook chief finds an interest in the approach of the French president, says Nick Clegg, his new vice president of global affairs, in a statement:
"As Mark Zuckerberg says, we believe that with the growing importance of Internet in people's lives, there will be a need for regulation. The best way to ensure that regulation is smart and effective for people is to get governments, regulators and businesses working Together, learn from each other and explore new ideas. We thank the French government for its leadership in this co-regulatory approach. "
Regularly share content for more than two billion users
Facebook hopes that this work group will allow it to transmit to France the scope of the task of regulating the content shared by more than two billion users around the world. This complexity argument is often evoked by the social network, which regularly faces controversy over content maintained online despite its violent or racist nature. Once cruel, the American company wants to convince the states of its good will.
But it is also to avoid strong regulation, in German, that Facebook opens its doors to France. Facebook executives do not hide criticism of Berlin's initiative, which would penalize freedom of expression by forcing companies not to publish many content to avoid fines.
"Public power is not at the level"
On the side of Elysée, the initiative with Facebook is a way of presenting as a defender more flexible way, between laissez-faire and the vote of a law "Rigid". The Macron team does not want to "Digital platforms define the limits of freedom of expression"why this "It's equivalent to giving them quasi-jurisprudential power". But the Presidency of the Republic also believes that, "On technical issues, public power is not at the level of Google, Facebook or Amazon". This test would be a way to overcome that gap.
More broadly, Emmanuel Macron attempts to prove that he is not inactive against digital giants, from the European point of view of May 2019: the work group with Facebook is seen as an extension of the peaks of Elyos Technology for good e Choose Francewhich, according to our information, will be renewed in 2019, in May and in January. The initiative is also presented as an extension of the French fiscal project for the main platforms, the French law on information manipulation, the European legislation on personal data or the recent European copyright directive.
The Elysée, like Facebook, hopes that experimentation will contribute to the emergence of one "New regulatory scheme". Both parties do not exclude that it can be extended to other types of subjects or to other countries.
This test is also part of a wider offensive, held in Paris or Brussels, to regulate online content by modifying the rules established since 2000 by the directive on electronic commerce, which distinguishes the articles of the publisher, content and host manager. "We will have to change the legal framework". said Emmanuel Macron, advocating, as the recent report by the Paris LRM deputy, Laetitia Avia, the creation of a "Third state" called "Content Accelerator" : This would concern social networks and search engines such as Facebook, YouTube or Google, which do not produce their content but rather "Editorialisent" Classifying them, notably through algorithms.
This new regulation could also be, for the government, an opportunity to shake the architecture of the French regulators, none of which is currently devoted to web content. The Avia report defends the creation of a regulator dedicated to racism and hate on the Internet or by extending the powers of the CSA, a long-standing applicant to have authority over online content.