France is Working on a New Law to Try and Curb Fake News Election Interference

By Tom Pritchard on at

With the rise of fake news back in 2016, and the increasing evidence that it was designed to influence the US presidential election (and maybe the Brexit vote), there's been a lot of talk of what should be done about it. The problem is nobody really knows how to stop the spread of fake news, but France is going to try and legislative approach.

French president Emmanuel Macron has announced that he has plans to create legislation designed to curb the spread of fake news during election periods. The president was victim of a fake news smear attack himself just prior to France's presidential election last year, with genuine leaked emails being leaked out mixed up with false information that painted him in a bad light. Information that included false claims that he had off shore accounts in the Cayman Islands.

Rather than trying to identify fake news early and stop it from spreading, which has been the focus so far, the laws are designed to expose the identities of the people paying to advertise fake news content. As he told journalists (via The Guardian) anyone with ten thousand or so Euros can spread fake news through social media with complete anonymity.

So the laws will attempt to increase transparency when it comes to online platforms and their advertising, and requiring them to make the identity of the person paying for them public. He also suggested that there may be spending caps on how much people can spend on sponsored content during election periods. The latter is a nice idea, though the Brexit referendum shows what would happen if that limit is strictly and efficiently enforced - seeing as how both the Remain and Leave campaigns have been investigated for overspending but only long after the vote had been and gone.

The Guardian also notes that the legislation is also planned to have emergency legal action, allowing the French authorities to remove content and block websites - something that is going to be controversial and could easily be abused by the wrong kinds of people. The CSA, France's TV and radio regulator, will also be given more power to fight any “any attempt at destabilisation” by TV stations owned or influenced by foreign governments. [Guardian via TechCrunch]

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