Riots broke out after French police shot a 17-year-old boy named Nahel. Now social media is being partly blamed for adding fuel to the fire.
Social media companies are once again under scrutiny, this time in France as the country’s president has blamed TikTok, Snapchat and other platforms for helping to fuel widespread riots over deadly police. 17 year old driver shot dead,
On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron accused social media of playing a “considerable role” in encouraging copycat acts of violence, as the country tries to downplay protests that have broken out between police and young people in the country. Trying to reduce the tension that has been going on for a long time.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said police made 917 arrests on Thursday alone. More than 300 police officers have also been injured trying to quell riots over the death of the teen, who is of North African descent and has been identified only by his first name, Nahel.
Macron, who blamed video games for the riots, said the French government would work with social media sites to remove “the most sensitive content” and identify users who “call for disorder or incite violence”. Are”.
Why is the French government worried?
A French official, speaking anonymously in line with customary presidential practices, provided examples of the name and address of the police officer who shot Nahel on social media. A jail official has also seen his professional card being online, which shows that there could be a threat to the person’s life and family, the official said.
During his speech on Friday, Macron did not specify what types of content he considered “sensitive”, but said he expected a “sense of responsibility” from social media platforms.
The official said talks have begun between the government and social media platforms, including Snapchat and Twitter, with the aim of expediting the process of removing content that incites violence.
The French government is also pushing to identify those who call for violence but this is still in the “discussion” stage.
Darmanin said that in a meeting with social networks, he warned that they could not allow themselves to be used as channels for calls for violence.
“They were very cooperative,” he said. “We’ll see tonight if they really are”.
Darmanin said on Friday that French authorities would provide “as much information as possible” to social media companies so that, in turn, they could identify those inciting violence, adding that authorities would “pursue anyone who uses these Uses social networks to incite violence.” Violent act.”
He also said that the country would “take all necessary steps if we find that social networks, whoever they are, do not respect the law”.
What does French law say?
France has a law against cyber harassment. Online threats of crimes such as rape and murder, as well as online insults, can be prosecuted.
But in fact, it is very rare.
In 2020, the country’s parliament approved a bill that would force platforms and search engines to remove prohibited content within 24 hours.
A year later, a French court convicted 11 of 13 men accused of harassing and threatening a teenager who harshly criticized Islam in an online post. But those charged were the only ones that could be traced.
What are the social media sites saying?
Snapchat spokeswoman Rachel Rakussen, one of the social media platforms blamed by Macron for contributing to the upheaval, said that since Tuesday, it has increased its moderation to detect and act on content related to the riots in France. increased.
“Violence has devastating consequences, and we have zero tolerance for content promoting or inciting hate or violent behavior on any part of Snapchat,” Rakusen said.
“We actively moderate this type of content and when we find it, we remove it and take appropriate action. We allow content that reports factually on the situation.”
But many others are keeping silence. TikTok as well as Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, did not immediately respond for comment on Friday.
Twitter simply replied with an automated reply of the poop emoji, as it has done for months under billionaire Elon Musk.
How do social media platforms generally respond?
Social media platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat and Twitter often police people calling for violence as it may go against their policies.
But they also remove content posted on their platforms, some of which may be controversial, to comply with local laws and government requests.
The latest example of this was Twitter’s decision to censor speech on the orders of the Turkish government in the lead-up to the country’s presidential elections in May.
Snapchat states on its website that it cooperates with law enforcement and government agencies to fulfill “legitimate requests” for information that could help during investigations.
The company receives many requests throughout the year. Its latest transparency report for the second half of 2022 revealed that it received the most requests from the US government, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany.
Authorities in France made 100 emergency requests for user information, including some identifiers for accounts, such as email addresses and phone numbers. The company said it generated “some data” in 54 percent of those requests.
During the same period, TikTok’s transparency report revealed that it received very few requests – less than 20 – from the French government. It removed or banned content — or accounts — for 86 percent of those requests.
Honey Farid, a digital forensics expert at the University of California, Berkeley, who resigned from TikTok’s US content advisory council in January, said that if a government asks to remove a specific piece of content because it violates local law If so, most platforms will follow.
But he added that the feasibility of the requests depended on the platform as well as the breadth and justification of the request. “If a government asks for a widespread removal of thousands of pieces of material, it may face more resistance,” Farid said.
Emma Lanso, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Free Expression Project, says that although it is reasonable for online services to remove speech that legitimately incites violence, they must tread carefully, especially on requests that are broad and overly broad. Can be
During passionate political debates and public outcry, Lanso said that people can use very heated language or “use signs of violence” without actually intending to incite or commit a violent act.
“What young people in France are doing right now is protesting state violence, which is an important type of political activity,” Lanso said.
“And so, how social media companies respond at this time is really impactful on people being able to find their political voice. It’s incredibly difficult to navigate.”