French PM Launches New Campaign Against ‘Surge of Hatred That is Expressed Daily on the Internet’

By Fayçal Benhassain | March 21, 2018 | 7:27pm EDT
In Germany, social media giants can be fined up to 50 million euros if they do not take down hateful content within 24 hours. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Paris ( – French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has declared war on online racism and anti-Semitism, decrying the fact that it is currently easier to take down a pirated video of a sport event than anti-Semitic material on social media.

During a visit to the National Museum of the History of Immigration, Philippe said he intends to fight racist and anti-Semitic content on social networks, to launch an Internet portal to inform and help victims of hate, racism and discrimination, and set up training sessions for teachers to manage and prevent offensive remarks in schools.

He also plans to set up a national response team to assist teachers and field workers confronted with conflict situations.

“French law should be amended to strengthen the obligations of detection, reporting and deletion of illegal content on the Internet,” he said in a speech.

“What annoys me is that nowadays, it seems easier to remove a pirated video of a football [soccer] game than anti-Semitic remarks.”

Philippe’s proposals follow an earlier plan, launched in a context of a resurgence of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim acts after terrorists attacked the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket in January 2015.

A government report early this year concluded that the earlier plan had achieved good results, but noted that even a single event could set back progress.

“The factors of tension, division, rejection are still at work in French society,” it said, saying the results so far were not a reason for satisfaction, but “an exhortation to do better, to do more.”

Philippe said that although the number of hate incidents may have dropped in 2017 for the second year in a row, the statistics do not account for the “surge of hatred that is expressed daily on the Internet.”

Philippe voiced support for legislation at a European level that forces Internet operators, and especially social networks, to remove offensive content very quickly.

Francis Kalifat, the president-elect of the umbrella organization for Jewish groups in France, CRIF, said in an interview it was important the “broaden this fight on a European level,” although he also felt the measures announced by Philippe were “below what we expected.”

On the scale of the problem, Kalifat said that only one percent of the French population is Jewish, but “35 percent of racist acts are directed against them.”

“And in reality, anti-Semitism has taken on a new face – that of anti-Zionism,” he added.

Kalifat said CRIF would like to see France emulate Germany. Under a law passed last year and applied since January, large social media companies can be fined up to 50 million euros ($61.7 million) if content containing hate speech is not removed within 24 hours.

In outlining his plans, Philippe said the government is considering following Germany’s lead with heavy fines for companies slow to react. He also mentioned the possibility of closing accounts with repetitive and massive dissemination of hate content.

No decision has been taken on those steps yet and the government will start discussions at the beginning of April, he said.

Philippe has asked three individuals – teacher Karim Amellal, member of parliament Laetitia Avia, and CRIF vice president Gil Taïeb – to make proposals about amendments to current law.

Amellal, who is French-Algerian, and Avia, the daughter of immigrants from Togo, have both been targeted by racist and death threats.


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