France Contemplates Stricter Online Regulations: A Comprehensive Review
The Move Towards Stricter Online Regulations
The French Government, under the guidance of Digital Transition and Telecommunications Minister Jean-Noël Barrot, has proposed a bill that could signify a significant move towards stricter regulations and penalties for online harassment. The proposed legislation is part of a larger effort to expedite justice delivery and is expected to be presented in the National Assembly. The primary aim of the bill is to offer judges the ability to sentence individuals found guilty of harassment to a “complementary penalty of social media ban,” which could last six months and be extended to a year if necessary.
The Expedited Justice Delivery System
The proposed move aims to expedite the process of delivering justice. Barrot explained that the judge of detention and liberties and the investigating judge could prescribe this banishment measure as part of a judicial control. This means they won’t have to wait until the end of the investigation to impose the ban, thereby speeding up the justice delivery process.
Concerns Raised by ARTICLE 19
ARTICLE 19, an organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of expression and information, has expressed grave concern about the proposed legislation, also known as the SREN Bill. The organization claims that the bill, while presented as a framework to secure and regulate the digital space, contains provisions that present fundamental threats to human rights for internet users in France and beyond. The Bill will mandate web browsers and domain name system (DNS) resolvers to block websites flagged by the government. The Bill also includes implementation provisions for the EU Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA).
One of the most concerning provisions, according to ARTICLE 19, is Article 6 of the Bill. It requires DNS providers and web browsers to block any website that is blacklisted by the French government for alleged infringements on aspects of the Penal Code and Monetary and Financial Code. The blocking can be ordered by an administrative authority, which, according to ARTICLE 19, should only be ordered by a court or a similar independent and impartial body to ensure a fair trial under international law.
Implications of the Bill
If enacted, the Bill will have widespread implications. To comply, relevant global service providers would be forced to implement blocking mandates against all of their users, not only those located in France. Blocking at the browser level particularly threatens the progress achieved in recent years with the help of civil society advocates towards better privacy preservation on the web, as browsers may be pushed to collect more browsing data to facilitate their compliance with blocking mandates.
The Government’s Stance
The French government maintains that the proposed bill is an aggressive but necessary measure to protect the public from digital insecurity. The bill’s provisions, including the creation of social media bans for people convicted of certain offenses, notably harassment or hate speech, are seen as concrete answers to the suffering caused by digital technology.
While the proposed bill is seen as a step towards stricter regulations and penalties for online harassment, it has also raised significant concerns regarding freedom of expression, privacy, and human rights. As the legislation is expected to be presented in the National Assembly, it will be crucial to see how these concerns are addressed and how the bill will ultimately shape the digital landscape in France.
Subscribe to BNN Breaking
Sign up for our daily newsletter covering global breaking news around the world.