One in four middle school students and almost one in five high school students in France say they have been the victim of online harassment, in the form of insults, rumours, identity theft or the showing of humiliating films. And among them, girls are overrepresented.
Significant measures have been taken under the mandate of President Emmanuel Macron, such as the ban on the use of mobile phones in colleges, the establishment in the academies of the system of anti- -harassment, the entry into force of the law on the school of confidence which enshrines the right to schooling without harassment.
To this must be added the rise in power of the “No to harassment” prize rewarding student projects, the specialization of a prosecutor’s office in cases of cyberharassment and online hate and the creation of the offense of “cyberharassment in a pack”, new form of harassment specific to social networks.
In November 2021, the State also signed a partnership agreement with the e-Enfance association in order to organize awareness modules on cyber-harassment and cyber-violence for parents, professionals and the youngest. The e-Enfance association also manages the 3018 number, which gives free and anonymous victims of cyber-violence and their parents access to a team of psychologists, lawyers and digital specialists.
Protecting children and young people online
In addition to cyberbullying, our children face other online risks, includingexposure to inappropriate or harmful content (violence, hatred, pornography), to online organized crime (child pornography, prostitution), as well as new situations in the made of digital uses exposing them publicly (child influencers).
These risks had been identified by the President of the Republic during his speech at UNESCO on November 20, 2019, on the occasion of Universal Children’s Day. Concrete measures were then taken and were subsequently enshrined in law, in particular to make responsible and punish websites allowing minors to access pornographic content.
The President of the Republic continues his action. On November 11, 2021, on the occasion of the Paris Peace Forum, he jointly launched with UNICEF a Call to Action for Child Protection in the Digital World States, digital platforms, associations and non-governmental organizations concerned. This call resulted in the adoption on March 17, 2022 in New York of a political declaration.
Recognizing both the digital opportunities for children and the threats to which they are exposed online, the signatories of the Call undertake to promote digital literacy in order to foster children’s access to technologies while guaranteeing their protection in this environment. The signatories of the Appeal also undertake to take the necessary measures to prevent any exposure to online abuse, and to allow children to use digital tools in complete safety.
March 2, 2022 is voted almost unanimously by the two assemblies the “Studer” law strengthening the obligations in terms of parental control. It imposes on terminal manufacturers the obligation to pre-install a parental control device on terminals and to offer its activation to the user as soon as the device is put into service for the first time.
In addition, under the French Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2022, the European Commission has proposed legislation relating to the prevention and fight against sexual abuse of minors (regulation known as “CSA” for child sexual abuse). This new regulation would aim in particular to strengthen the obligations of companies offering online information services, in terms of risk assessment, mitigation of these risks (via moderation and internal control mechanisms), reporting, detection, removal, blocking and identification of minors.
Countering Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online
Regulating cyberspace also means fighting terrorism and violent extremism. Christchurch Calling, launched by France and New Zealand in 2019, now brings together some fifty states, international organizations and some of the main digital service providers (Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, DailyMotion, etc.) . The Appeal has enabled considerable progress by demonstrating the feasibility of the platforms’ immediate removal of the content concerned and by strengthening crisis protocols to prevent the risk of its massive spread. Today work continues on shared crisis protocols, the coordination of legal frameworks, and the conduct of research projects on algorithmic transparency. The Call also extends to new players, such as video game, metaverse, data storage and private messaging companies.
At the instigation of France, the European Union is at the forefront of the fight against terrorism and violent extremism online. Digital platforms are now required to remove any terrorist content within one hour of being reported.
These initiatives make the difference. In 2019, the video of the Christchurch attack in New Zealand remains online for 48 hours. That of the assassination of Samuel Paty, October 16, 2020, is immediately withdrawn.
In addition, the convincing method used in the context of the Call, consisting in bringing together all the players to develop technical solutions, also offers an example to follow in the face of other challenges in the regulation of online content, starting with the protection children.
Ensure respect for our democratic values in online spaces of expression
The development of the Internet has made it possible to create new positive forms of sociability, expression and communication, mainly through private companies, which until then had only few obligations in terms of the operation and moderation of content uploaded by users. Called by his wishes by France, the Digital Services Act has been adopted at European level, in particular obliging platforms to moderate the content of their users in accordance with our democratic principles, to analyze the risks that their services pose to fundamental freedoms and to report on the means implemented and the results obtained. We will work in France for an exemplary implementation of the principles and provisions provided for at European level.