Macron announces law to combat spread of fake news in France

4 Jan 2018

French president Emmanuel Macron. Image: 360b/Shutterstock

The French president is pushing a new law that could see social media firms face tougher sanctions.

There are few terms as ubiquitous as ‘fake news’ in the media, as stories of geopolitical cyber interference and spying dominated the news cycle throughout 2017.

Concerns have been growing for some time around the use of social media platforms – such as Facebook and Twitter – and other websites to amplify propaganda and false information, particularly in the wake of the 2016 US presidential election.

French president Emmanuel Macron was speaking about the subject at the Élysée Palace in Paris on 3 January, where he announced that his administration is to push a new law to combat the onslaught of false information.

He explained that the propagation of fake news on social media is far too simple and accessible, saying it “only requires a few tens of thousands of euros and can be done with total anonymity”.

More transparency demanded

The Guardian reported that the upcoming legislation for websites will mean sites will have to reveal who is financing them, and the amount of money permitted for sponsored content would be limited.

The new rules will have a particular effect during election proceedings, said Macron, adding that the content may be removed or the entire website may be blocked in some cases.

Macron said: “The freedom of the press is not a special freedom, it is the highest expression of freedom.

“If we want to protect liberal democracies, we have to be strong and have clear rules.”

Macron himself was the subject of an array of fake news stories about alleged offshore accounts – false stories cited by election rival and far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen.

Upon hearing the news of the prospective law, Le Pen tweeted that France was, in her words, “muzzling” its citizens.

According to The Washington Post, US intelligence agencies blamed Russian interference for a massive cyberattack suffered by Macron’s campaign the night before French citizens were due to vote.

French president Emmanuel Macron. Image: 360b/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects