Online platforms (namely social networks and search engines)
Draft law reinforcing compliance with the principles of the Republic
By notification 2021/152/F of 12 March 2021, the French authorities notified Articles 19 and 19a of the Draft law reinforcing compliance with the principles of the Republic.
With regard to the subject-matter of the above-mentioned notification, amendments were made to paragraphs 2, 5 and 8 of Article 19 during consideration by the Senate last April. The French authorities are therefore submitting a new notification in accordance with § 3 of Article 5(1) of Directive (EU) 2015/1535.
Articles 19 and 19a form part of Chapter IV of the bill dedicated to combatting hate speech and illegal online content. Article 19 establishes a mechanism for combatting “mirror sites” of sites already considered illegal, based on the intervention of the competent administrative authority. Said authority may request the blocking of access or the de-listing of an online public communication service in which the content is identical or equivalent to that of the service covered by the court ruling. Article 19a establishes for certain operators of online platforms
(social networks, search engines, etc.), whose audience exceeds a certain threshold, a series of obligations of means intended to prevent and combat the online dissemination of illegal content that is detrimental to human dignity. These obligations apply to operators, whether or not they are established on French territory. The principle obligations established in Article 19a relate to (i) cooperation with judicial or administrative authorities, the retention of reported and withdrawn content, and the appointment of a point of contact; (ii) the transparency of the general conditions of use, the moderation system, the conditions for the suspension or termination of the account and the public reporting on their moderation policy; (iii) providing users with a mechanism for reporting illegal content and processing said reports promptly; (iv) the establishment of internal processes to combat the withdrawal of content and suspension of accounts; (v) the evaluation and mitigation of systemic risks associated with the service; (vi) an obligation to report periodically to the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (Higher Audio-visual Council) and (vii) possible formal notices and sanctions imposed by the same Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel in the event of non-compliance with these obligations.
The amendments to paragraphs 2, 5 and 8 of Article 19 relate to the following four points:
Paragraph 2: the purpose of the amendment is to broaden the scope of the actors to whom the judicial authorities may prescribe any measures designed to prevent or stop damage caused by an illegal site or illegal content; the injunction of the judge is no longer limited to hosts or internet service providers, but to “any person” who may contribute to these preventive measures. It replaces the interim measure and request procedures of Article 6 I 8 of the Law on Confidence in the Digital Economy by the accelerated procedure on the merits provided for by Article 481-1 of the Code of Civil Procedure.
Paragraph 5: two changes were made:
- on the one hand, the amendment seeks also to extend the scope of the actors from whom the administrative authority may demand the blocking of a “mirror” site; in accordance with paragraph 2, the administrative authority’s demand is no longer limited to hosts or internet service providers, but may be addressed to “any person” who may contribute to preventing access to this mirror site;
- the definition of a “mirror-site” is revised in more circumscript and narrower terms; the “mirror-site” is the online website which reproduces “in whole or substantially” the content of the online service targeted by the judge’s decision.
Paragraph 8: in accordance with paragraph 2, the amendment replaces the interim measure and request procedures in the event of non-compliance with the blocking or de-listing demand by the accelerated procedure on the merits provided for by Article 481-1 of the Code of Civil Procedure.