PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron says online platforms and foreign “propaganda” media are the main drivers behind the spread of disinformation in the country – and he wants to curb them.
“Online platforms, influencers and also citizens, who sometimes occupy a significant place in the public debate precisely through these new platforms … must have a framework of responsibility that has not yet been built,” he said on Tuesday during the annual New Year’s speech in front of the country’s press corps. .
“The same should apply to foreign media authorized to broadcast on French soil,” the president added in a clear allusion to Russian media such as Sputnik and RT.
Macron’s remarks were based on the conclusions of a report handed to him earlier Tuesday setting out guidelines to combat disinformation and conspiracy theories online. In late September, he set the task a group by scientists, sociologists, professors, journalists and historians working on the issue, in a committee called the “Age of Enlightenment in the Digital Age” – a reference to the 18th century French philosophical movement.
The president said that consideration of how to combat fake news while protecting accurate information and reliable media should be done at EU level and go beyond national election deadlines.
The speech comes at a crucial time for Macron, just a few months away from April’s high-profile presidential vote, where he is expected to seek re-election, and also in the middle of strained relations with the press.
In 2017, Macron’s campaign was attacked by Russian-backed hackers, and just a few weeks ago, his wife became First Lady Brigitte Macron was the goal of a conspiracy theory that erroneously claims she is transgender.
As Macron’s party La République En Marche, public authorities and politicians prepare for an election campaign expected to be fraught with disinformation, the French president hinted at a new approach to foreign media backing a peer-review-like “self-regulatory system” “, where the press industry identifies” reliable media “.
“I say this very seriously: today we are a democracy, sometimes naive … We let propaganda actors funded by foreign authoritarian regimes – who do not react in any way to a regime of responsibility or journalistic ethics – inform and participate in debates such as journalists, “he said.
In recent years, the French president has usually used the annual speech to the press to pitch new legislation related to media and information. This year, however, he has too little time ahead of the election to ensure that new rules actually become a reality, but he hinted in his speech about possible future regulation if he is re-elected.
“On the issue of algorithms, we will jointly need debates and, no doubt, rules,” Macron said. He added that researchers should have more access to the “data and algorithms” from online platforms – which is likely to become a reality via EU law on digital services, a content moderation bill currently being discussed in Brussels and one of France’s priorities under its Council Presidency Council.
Macron also promised the media that he would go after Big Tech companies again if they refuse to pay for news.
The French president said when he struck with Google, saying Paris would ensure that the EU’s copyright reform, which gives press publishers so-called neighborhood rights, is actually effective – and will not shy away from doing more.
“We will complete, if necessary, our French and European texts in order to reach the end of the goal that was ours and remains ours: fair remuneration for copyright and related rights,” he said.
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