Macron Threatens to Hold ‘Accountable’ Online Outlets Publishing Foreign ‘Propaganda’

France's President Emmanuel Macron (C) flanked by Libya's interim leaders Mohamed El-Menfi (L) and Abdul Hamid Dbeibah (R) pose for a family picture as they attend the International conference on Libya at the Maison de la Chimie in Paris on November 12, 2021. (Photo by Yoan VALAT / POOL / …
YOAN VALAT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

President Emmanuel Macron has threatened to hold ‘accountable’ online outlets publishing foreign ‘propaganda’ for consumption in France.

French President Emmanuel Macron has reportedly warned that foreign-funded online “propaganda” outlets are a danger to democracy, and has threatened to hold “accountable” perceived offenders.

The President’s comments come shortly after the publication of a French report detailing potential guidelines to fight against disinformation online, which was initially commissioned by the president last year with reference to “the attack in January 2021 on Capitol Hill by rioters”.

“I say it here with great gravity: We are today a democracy sometimes naive,” Politico reports Macron as saying. “We let propaganda actors financed by foreign authoritarian regimes — that do not respond in any way to a regime of responsibility or journalistic ethics — inform and participate in the debate as journalists.”

Euronews went on to cite the President as saying that such actors should be “held accountable” in France for their actions.

“Online platforms, influencers, and also citizens who sometimes take a considerable place in the public debate precisely through these new platforms … must have a framework of responsibility that is yet to be built,” the French President also said, noting that “the same must apply to foreign media authorized to broadcast on French soil.”

“We must also know how to protect ourselves against foreign interference,” the President also stated according to Euronews.

Politico also reports that Macron said that the task of fighting disinformation should go beyond national boundaries, and be dealt with at the level of the European Union.

From teaching children to question what they read on social media to sanctioning people who disrupt “public order” by spreading fake news, Euronews reports that the “The Enlightenment in the Digital Age” committee made a number of recommendations on how best to fight “the dangers that the digital age poses” to democracy.

However, Sociologist Gérald Bronner, who headed up the report, warned that any such measures must be balanced with concerns regarding free speech.

“Our recommendations, therefore, are not meant to eradicate any news-related problems,” Euronews notes Bronner as saying “But to limit the spread of contents that are damaging to democratic life, to deter malicious behaviour, to sanction illegal practices.”

Regarding the strength of the democratic process in France however, in a poll taken late last year, 48 per cent of recipients believed that the democratic system had deteriorated since President Macron was elected to office in 2017.

Another study done last year ranked France as a “failing democracy” over restrictions implemented during the Chinese Coronavirus pandemic.

France is far from the only European country looking to deal with “foreign propaganda”.

Sweden launched an entire agency dedicated to countering foreign disinformation, the country having cited Russian interference in US elections as one reason for its creation.

“Disinformation is a threat to Swedish democracy, our decision-makers and to our independence,” said Swedish Interior Minister Mikael Damberg. “A very important duty for the agency in 2022 will be to work to strengthen society’s ability to identify and handle misinformation directed at Sweden in connection with the General Election.”

Although the agency is tasked with dealing with information seen by the public, the head of the new agency has claimed that it did not want to impinge on the freedoms of those withing Sweden.

“This is not the Ministry of Truth or a State Information Board like we had during the Cold War,” the agency leader said. “We want to protect freedom of opinion in our country.”

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