Computer and shadow of hand
7 June 2018

Fake news: a bill to combat the manipulation of information

A private members' bill to combat the manipulation of information is to be presented in open session at the National Assembly on 7 and 8 June. Its aim is to prevent the spreading of false information.
 

"Fake news" or "false information" is threatening our democratic systems, primarily when it influences the results of ballots during election campaigns. A number of European countries have decided to take action:

  • The United Kingdom’s Parliament has set up a Board of Inquiry;
  • Germany’s Parliament has passed legislation;
  • Italy’s government has created a platform for reporting fake news items.

In France, the Republic Act of 29 July 1881 on the freedom of the press (Article 27) contains a definition of fake news and makes its dissemination a criminal offence punishable by law.


"The malicious publication, dissemination and reproduction, by whatever means, of false news and documents which have been fabricated or falsified or mendaciously attributed to third parties, when this has disturbed the peace, or was capable of disturbing it, will be subject to a fine of 45,000 euros.

The same offence will be subject to a fine of 135,000 euros when this malicious publication, dissemination or reproduction is likely to undermine the discipline or morale of the armed forces, or interfere with the Nation’s war effort."



The Government wants to go further, and bring in a bill to combat the manipulation of information. The purpose behind this bill is to adapt the legal tools for combating fake news to the new vehicles and means of dissemination:

  • Media controlled by foreign states.
  • Digital platforms which use their "content host" status as a means to avoid all responsibility for the content they disseminate, even though they are also a tool used to spread fake news.

This bill will allow for swift action during electoral campaigns, both before and /or during elections, in an effort to concentrate all the available tools on preventing attempts to influence the results of elections.

To this end, the CSA (Broadcasting Authority) will be able to suspend television channels controlled by foreign states. Digital platforms will have a transparency obligation regarding sponsored content and will be issued with a legal injunction to take swift action to end the dissemination of fake news items during elections.

In order to halt the rapid spread of fake news, decisions as to whether fake news is manifest and disseminated deliberately on a massive scale, and whether it has led to a disturbance of the peace or has influenced the results of an election, will be referred to the interim judge. The Government is determined to make these platforms accountable.

Between elections, the French authorities want to establish a duty of cooperation for these platforms, to force them to introduce measures to combat fake news and make these public.

This bill is designed to guarantee and provide better protection of fundamental freedoms (the freedom of expression and the protection of journalists' sources), with the aim of forestalling all deliberate attempts at manipulation, thus increasing the reliability of information used by journalists in their reports.
 


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