World leaders and information gatekeepers have struggled to determine how best to address the epidemic of “fake news.” French President Emmanuel Macron joined the struggle this week, providing his own solution for how to curb the spread of misinformation online: Make it illegal.
In a Wednesday address to journalists at the Élysée Palace, the French president announced his plan to introduce legislation that would curb the spread of misinformation during the country’s future election campaigns—a lofty goal he said would be made possible by enforcing more media transparency and blocking offending sites. “Thousands of propaganda accounts on social networks are spreading all over the world, in all languages, lies invented to tarnish political officials, personalities, public figures, journalists,” Macron said, adding that “if we want to protect liberal democracies, we must have strong legislation.”
Though the exact details of the proposed bill are not yet known, Macron said the law—which would apply only during campaigns—would boost transparency online by mandating that social media platforms must reveal who is paying for sponsored content, as well as impose a cap on how much can be spent. He said judges would be empowered to take down false content and even block access to websites where such content appears. The country’s media watchdog, the CSA, would be given additional powers to “fight any destabilization attempt by television channels controlled or influenced by foreign states.”