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Avia law faced with its critics

Paris-based MP Laetitia Avia at the National Assembly in Paris on July 3. STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

The Internet hate law bill faces headwinds. Tuesday, December 17, the text, carried by Laetitia Avia, deputy (The Republic on the march) of Paris, and adopted in the National Assembly in July, arrives for discussion in session in the Senate, after having suffered two bursts of criticism, from the part of the Senate Law Commission and the European Commission. Critics of the text believe it poses risks to freedom of expression. When questioned, Laetitia Avia and the Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, Cédric O, took their positions, while saying they were open to discussion on certain points.

The Senate Law Committee adopted no less than 45 amendments and above all removed the flagship provision: the obligation, for large online platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter, to withdraw, within twenty-four hours, hate content.

Despite an intention which can only be shared, the criminal aspect at the heart of the system remains unsuccessful and carries practical and legal risks, comments, in the committee's press release, Christophe-André Frassa, Senator LR, author of the amendment. Unbalanced at the expense of freedom of expression, it will mechanically encourage platforms to remove – overly cautious – content that is however lawful; contrary to European Union law, it seems to be inapplicable to the prosecution professionals themselves … “

Apply more “interoperability”

Critics fear, in fact, that Avia law will push Facebook or YouTube to censor a lot of legal content in order to avoid sanctions. For Philippe Bas, chairman LR of the Senate Law Commission, the text modified on December 11 restores “The balance always delicate” between combating hatred and freedom of expression.

Defender of the Avia bill, La Quadrature du Net welcomes a “First victory”. This association for the defense of online freedoms also welcomed the fact that senators have “Deleted a perfectly absurd obligation (…) requiring platforms to censor any reappearance of already censored content. ” “This would have implied constant monitoring of all the messages they disseminate, in direct violation of European law”, wrote the association in its press release.

Read also Hatred online: what is in the bill before the Assembly

La Quadrature du Net is also delighted that the senators have “Inspired” of his proposals by asking social networks to apply more “Interoperability”. This principle, by allowing the Internet user to leave a network by bringing their content and their contact list, will allow victims of online hatred to “Take refuge on other platforms with different moderation policies”, she wrote.

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