France’s new hate speech law risks excessive takedowns, harms freedom of expression

BY Heather Greenfield
May 13, 2020

Brussels, BELGIUM — The French National Assembly today adopted its “Avia Law” aimed at combating hate speech online. The Computer & Communications Industry Association is concerned that it could lead to excessive takedowns of content as companies, especially startups, would err on the side of caution. 

The new law requires platforms to takedown manifestly illegal content upon notification within 24 hours. Among others, the law targets any hateful attack on someone’s “dignity” on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. Terrorist or child pornographic contents should be brought down within one hour of notification. 

If a platform does not comply, it could face criminal sanctions of up to €1,250,000. In case of systemic failure, the French Audiovisual Authority (Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuelCSA) could impose an administrative penalty of 4% of a platform’s global revenue.

The following can be attributed to CCIA Senior Manager, Victoria de Posson: 

“CCIA supports the objective of tackling hate speech online, however the French law might lead to excessive use of automated filters leading to over-blocking and harming freedom of speech. Furthermore, it could disproportionately burden startups that don’t have the needed technical tools and legal expertise.”

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