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August 12, 2022



French lawmaker, victimized herself by online hate, drafts law against it

9.7.2019 7:40
French MP Laetitia Avia (2019) (PHOTO:  Wikipedia).
French MP Laetitia Avia (2019) (PHOTO: Wikipedia).

The Czech news server Seznamzprá reported last Thursday that Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has promised to provide French courts with data about users who take advantage of that social networking service to express hate and xenophobia. Lawmakers in the French National Assembly have also begun to discuss the issue.

French MP Laetitia Avia has become the face of that effort. She is a frequent target of hateful, racist attacks online.

"For me, this is an everyday subject. Ever since I was elected MP, there has not been a day when somebody didn't attack me through social media for having dark skin," Avia said in an interview with the French daily Le Figaro.

"None of those people has criticized my political activity," the lawmaker told the paper. According to surveys done for the FranceInfo company, as many as 22 % of young people in France (aged 18-24) have been the targets of attacks and bullying through the Internet.

"Those are just the ones who admit this has happened. For many people this remains a taboo, they are ashamed of it," Avia believes.

The French MP comes from a poorer suburb of Paris and was born in France to parents from Togo. During the 2017 elections she became a symbol of diversity in France as part of the movement that brought French President Macron to office.

Avia wants hateful attacks committed through online social networks to be assessed in the same way they would be if perpetrated on the streets. "If somebody were to shout 'you black mug' at somebody on a bus, the other passengers would object and ask the driver to eject that person," Avia told the British newspaper The Guardian.

According to the bill, hateful posts would have to be removed by social media companies within 24 hours. The law would cover attacks motivated by disability, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation.

If the companies operating the network failed to react, they could be fined up to EUR 10 million. The French law has been partially inspired by a German law about online hate.

That legislation took effect last year and sparked controversy and discussion about freedom of speech. French lawmakers say their law will be far more concrete and should not endanger freedom of expression online.

fk, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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