French MPs adopt bills to pre­vent false in­for­ma­tion

Op­po­si­tion crit­i­cises bills as an at­tempt to cre­ate a ‘thought po­lice’

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Paris, France - French law­mak­ers on Wed­nes­day adopted two bills to pre­vent the spread of false in­for­ma­tion dur­ing elec­tion cam­paigns fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions of Rus­sian med­dling in the 2017 pres­i­den­tial vote.

The ‘fake news’ bills en­able a can­di­date or po­lit­i­cal party to seek a court in­junc­tion pre­vent­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of ‘false in­for­ma­tion’ dur­ing the three months lead­ing up to a na­tional elec­tion.

They also give France’s broad­cast author­ity the power to take any net­work that is ‘con­trolled by, or un­der the in­flu­ence of a for­eign power’ off the air if it ‘de- lib­er­ately spreads false in­for­ma­tion that could al­ter the in­tegrity of the elec­tion’. The mea­sure is seen as aimed at Rus­sia’s state­backed RT net­work which be­gan broad­cast­ing in French late last year. Macron has had Rus­sian me­dia in his sights since his 2017 cam­paign when a state-backed Rus­sian site ran al­le­ga­tions that he had a se­cret bank ac­count in the Ba­hamas.

France’s op­po­si­tion has crit­i­cised the bills as an at­tempt to cre­ate a ‘thought po­lice’, not­ing that a law dat­ing to 1881 al­ready pro­tects politi­cians and other ci­ti­zens against defama­tion.

Ahead of the late-night vote, Cul­ture Min­is­ter Fran­coise Nyssen de­fended the draft laws say­ing they ‘in no way’ vi­o­lated the right to free speech.

The main tar­get of the leg­is­la­tion is sto­ries spread by fak­e­news bots that are ‘man­i­festly false and shared in a de­lib­er­ate, mass and ar­ti­fi­cial way’, she said.

The bill also re­quires that Face­book, Twit­ter and other so­cial me­dia plat­forms re­veal the names of com­pa­nies be­hind spon­sored con­tent and es­tab­lishes a press ethics coun­cil, headed by the for­mer head of AFP Em­manuel Hoog.

Op­po­si­tion par­ties from both the left and right have warned of the dif­fi­culty for judges be­ing forced to make hasty de­ci­sions about what is true and what is false and of the courts be­ing used for po­lit­i­cal point scor­ing.

“Good in­ten­tions don’t al­ways make for good laws,” Ma­ri­etta Kara­manli of the op­po­si­tion So­cial­ists warned. Pre­vi­ous ver­sions of the bills were adopted by the Na­tional As­sem­bly in July, with the back­ing of Macron’s Repub­lic on the Move party, but they were re­jected by the op­po­si­tion-con­trolled Se­nate.

(AFP)

Law­mak­ers at the French Na­tional As­sem­bly, in Paris on Oc­to­ber 2

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