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Macron threatens to cut off social media during protests, after unrest

French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee palace in Paris, 30 June 2023
French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee palace in Paris, 30 June 2023 Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Una Hajdari
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French president Emmanuel Macron claims that protesters are using Snapchat, TikTok, and Telegram to film violent events and organise illegal gatherings.

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French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the possibility of banning access to certain social media features, in a meeting with local mayors in the cities that have seen violent protests.

Macron told about 300 local leaders that "we need to reflect on social media use among the youngest [and] on the prohibitions we must put in place," in a video seen by some French and international media.

"When things get out of hand, perhaps you have to put yourself in a position to regulate or cut them," Macron added.

Government spokesperson Olivier Véran, however, has attempted to assure the public in the meantime that it would only include "functional suspensions".

"You have, for example, geolocation functions on certain platforms, which allow young people to meet up in certain locations … [while discussing] how to set fires, etc. 

"These are calls for the organisation of hatred in the public space, and there you have the authority to suspend [social media features]," said Véran in his report to the Council of Ministers.

Macron and others claim that protesters are using Snapchat, TikTok, and Telegram - all social media platforms with limited content monitoring functionality - to film violent events and, according to officials, organise illegal gatherings.

A source close to the president told AFP that Macron was not advocating a "general blackout" but rather "being able to temporarily suspend social media as needed."

The comments drew the ire of many critics, including Olivier Marleix, president of the Les Républicains group in the French National Assembly, who said on Twitter that they were "in very bad taste".

The member of parliament from the La France Insoumise group, Mathilde Panot, compared Macron to the North Korean dictator, saying, "OK Kim Jong Un."

When confronted with widespread social-media-led demonstrations - as was the case with mainland China during the Hong Kong protests - countries with limited digital rights protections have instituted social media blackouts.

French Minister for Digital Transition Jean-Noël Barrot proposed to the Senate on Tuesday evening the creation of a working group to address measures to be taken in the event of riots, which could be included in the bill to "secure" the Internet.

Additional sources • AFP

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