The French Senate has discussed whether or not to tighten the country's digital hate speech laws in the wake of widespread rioting throughout the country. (Photo by Ameer Alhalbi/Getty Images)


French Senate discusses tightening censorship laws after riots


France’s Senate considered giving police new powers to make social media firms remove content within two hours, after widespread rioting gripped the country.

Police would have these powers  “when there are riots or popular movements that undermine public order or public security and manifestly incite violence”, in an amendment tabled by Republican Senator Patrick Chaize.

France’s recent violence “bears witness to the amplifying effects of social networks on riots and violent popular movements,” said an explainer attached to the amendment.

The Senate already was considering a draft internet regulation law, making websites remove child pornography within 24 hours of an official notification, and informing the public about online scams.

Failing to comply with measures in the bill could carry fines up to €250,000, and up to a year in jail. Chaize was the draft law’s rapporteur.

Other parliamentarians however expressed doubts over the bill.

La République En Marche Senator Stéphane Vojetta worried the law could conflict with the EU’s Digital Services Act, obliging tech firms to take down any illegal content as soon as they become aware of it.

Another senator, Catherine Morin-Desailly, meanwhile stated that she believed the problems to be embedded in social media companies themselves.

She argued instead that there needs to be further investigation into content algorithms employed by tech giants, as well as so-called “troll farms”, which the senator views as “destabilising” democracy.

President Emmanuel Macron is also seemingly in favour of giving himself more power to censor tech firms, reportedly saying that firms that cause significant issues for France should be shut off from the country entirely.

“[W]hen things get carried away, we may have to put ourselves in a position to regulate them or cut them [off],” Macron is said to have told French mayors during a meeting on Tuesday.