France's anti-fake news initiative under fire

Under a proposed new law courts in France would be able to order media to delete false information, at least in the three months prior to national and European elections. While French media are unconvinced that the draft law makes sense, Russia is complaining about double standards.

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Les Echos (FR) /

Illusory bulwark against fake news

Les Echos explains why there's no need for a law against fake news:

“What would it give us? An official truth? One that the law does not deem fake? ... 'The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man,' according to the Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen of 1789. It adds: 'Every citizen may thus speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.' Such cases exist already, they are the object of abundant jurisprudence. So it is futile to carelessly add to this list. An illusory bulwark against 'fake news', this 'fake law' will be inapplicable.”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

Who is manipulating the media here?

The state-run news agency Ria Novosti sees Macron's conflict with the Russian media outlets Russia Today and Sputnik during his presidential campaign as the trigger for the legal initiative:

“Macron's anti-fake initiative is less a battle against the spreading of lies than an attempt to bring information which hurts the state authority - including that in social media - under control. ... Now the French are realising with astonishment that the official organs in their country could determine which information is the 'only true' news, and which information's dissemination must be punished. ... Macron's attempt to introduce censorship using the fight against Russian journalists as an excuse should be a lesson to all media that take delight in condemning Russia”

Le Monde (FR) /

Laws can't restore trust

The planned law leaves the key issue unresolved, Le Monde argues:

“Contrary to what this futile law would lead us to believe, building up trust, between journalists and their readers as well as between elected officials and the electorate, is a long term project accomplished with each article and each day of an official's mandate. The big problem our societies face resides less in fake news stories than in the fact that numerous citizens have chosen to believe them. And there's a far greater danger than that of fake information: thinking that all you have to do is pass a symbolic law to resolve the major crisis of our democracies, namely the people's growing defiance of their institutions.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

The real problem is in California

Fake news can't be fought effectively without bearing in mind where it comes from, Le Figaro criticises:

“This legislation fails to take account of the real danger, namely what one could call the 'siliconisation of information'. The dominance of the big Californian companies, the notorious Gafa [Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple], which care neither about truth nor lies, but simply about their audiences. To reach them, these platforms, which exist outside tax legislation and common law, combine newspaper articles with nonsense in order to gain control of almost all the advertising market, and, over time, to kill the traditional media. If nothing is done, in a few years here in Europe we will read nothing but 'information' produced directly or indirectly by a handful of Californian, Russian or Chinese 'manufacturers'. Like?”