France passes new law to combat hateful content on the Internet

The French parliament adopted a controversial legislation on hate speech (Avia Law), requiring online platforms to remove flagged hateful content within 24 hours, and child abuse and terrorist propaganda within 1 hour. In case the online platforms fail to do so, the search engines and social media companies face fines of up to 4% of their global revenue. This law requires the online platforms to prevent the re-upload of once removed content. It provides safeguards of procedural fairness by establishing the requirement for individuals who notify potentially illegal content to state why they believe it should be removed. Moreover, the law sets out obligations for companies to establish internal complaints and appeal mechanisms for both the notifier and the content provider.

This law has already been criticised in the draft stage by civil rights groups such as Article 19 and AccessNow for threatening the freedom of online speech. The threat to freedom of speech lies in giving the tech companies the power to determine what constitutes hate speech, as well as requiring the tech companies to monitor content for preventing re-uploads. The European Commission issued a statement last summer asking France to postpone the adoption of this law as it could violate Articles 3, 14 and 15 of the European E-directive. Additional concern of the European Commission was that the Avia Law would overlap with the future Digital Services Act, which foresees European rules for how platforms moderate illegal content online.