The French Government is Considering to Restrict Social Media in the Event of New Riots

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The French government is considering whether it could restrict social media in the event of new large-scale riots. President Emmanuel Macron suggested the idea yesterday during a speech to 300 mayors gathered at the Elysée.

 

It came in response to the ongoing protests after the death of 17-year-old Nahel during a police check.

Following the death of 17-year-old Nahel during a police check in Nanterre, near Paris, large-scale riots broke out in several French cities. The rioters, who were often very young, mainly communicated via social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok.

Via these platforms, young people can communicate easily and quickly with each other and locate the location of the riots. For example, Snapchat allows users to show places via an interactive map where multiple videos and photos are recorded. TikTok and Twitter also list the most searched terms or hashtags. A click on such a term brings the user easily to an overview of the posted photos, videos and messages.

“In various groups, we see the organization of violent meetings, but also a form of imitation of violence. This leads to a kind of escape from reality for the group’s youngest members,” Macron said last Friday during a meeting of the interministerial crisis unit. Sharing photos and videos encourage young people who recognize themselves in the situation to imitate and helps explain the rapid spread of the riots.

“We need to think about the social media use of the very young, in families and at school, and about the bans we need to impose,” Macron said during his address to the mayors on Tuesday. “When things get out of hand for a while, we may end up in a situation where we have to regulate or block them (social media),” the head of state continued.

Government spokesman Olivier Véran clarified that Macron’s statements were not referring to a blanket ban on social media. According to him, it would be the “suspension of functionalities”, such as geolocation, or the removal of “calls to organize hate actions in public space”.

The French opposition immediately criticized the possible censorship. “Block social media? Like China, Iran, North Korea?” Les Républicains MP Olivier Marleix wondered on Twitter. Mathilde Panot of La France insoumise also referred to the authoritarian regime in Pyongyang. “Okay, Kim Jong-un,” it said.

But there was also criticism of Macron from his own party. “It would amount to letting go of the idea that democracy is stronger than the means against it,” said Renaissance MP Eric Bothorel. “It would be a mistake.

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