​France to tighten online bullying laws after media ‘boys’ club’ scandal

France said Thursday it is toughening its internet abuse laws after an outcry over young media executives who ran a macho “boys’ club” that bullied female colleagues online.

Two government ministers said new rules will be tabled before the end of June to force YouTube and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to pull hateful posts.

Eight journalists and public relations executives who belonged to the “League of LOL” Facebook group have either been suspended or stepped down this week since they were accused of targeting feminists and minority colleagues online.

The affair is being dubbed the “French media’s #MeToo”, with the closed group branded a “boys’ club” which harassed women online with pornographic memes and off-colour jokes about rape culture.

France’s Digital Affairs Minister Mounir Mahjoubi, who described those behind the League of LOL as “losers”, said the government was also considering changing the legal status of social networks to make them face up to their responsibilities.


He said Facebook and Twitter’s existing status as sharing platforms “significantly limits their responsibility” for online abuse and harassment.

Mahjoubi said they could be reclassified somewhere between platforms and publishers, which would expose them to heavier fines and regulation, as already happens in neighbouring Germany.

Twitter ‘not up to scratch’

And he was particularly critical of Twitter.

“If we want to fight against harassment, platforms have to step up and invest, and today Twitter is not up to scratch,” he told France Inter radio.

Equality minister Marlene Schiappa, who is working with Mahjoubi on the new rules, said earlier she was considering extending the six-year cut-off for prosecuting alleged crimes.

Under the law as it stands, only online bullies who put up abusive posts after 2013 can be prosecuted under the statute of limitations.

Mahjoubi said Thursday that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube had “particular responsibility” to act on online bullying and hate, and the new “legal and non-legal steps being considered to regulate the chain of hate” would oblige them to take down such content.

He said the reforms would be part of a package of online measures already being examined under a review ordered by President Emmanuel Macron.

The government wanted to protect online anonymity, but “it depends” on how it is used, he added.

“There are certain areas where we cannot go on having it, as in online petitions where there should be no anonymity,” Mahjoubi insisted.

The League of LOL scandal, which first surfaced at the weekend, continues to rock the French media, with many of its predominantly-male members apologising for their behaviour or for not speaking out.

Victims of the group recounted how the attacks and pranks had pushed one woman to quit journalism and left another suicidal.

In a separate episode, three journalists from the French edition of the Huffington Post news site were sacked on Monday for making “unacceptable remarks in a work context”.

Le Monde newspaper — which has a stake in the site — said the three were fired over their posts on another closed Facebook page.

© Agence France-Presse

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Fiachra Gibbons
Editor of culture, food and fashion at AFP.

Related stories

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my time’ — Mamodupi Mohlala

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

Covid-19 vaccines offer hope as world leaders plan for future

Hopes over Covid-19 vaccines have given a boost to virus-weary citizens across the globe, but the disease remains rampant and world leaders are urging people to be patient

$500m for Covid test, treat, vaccine

France, Spain, the European Commission and Britain as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have pledged money for equity in the treatment of Covid-19

Tax the super rich and raise inflation to cut state debt, inequality and poverty

The richest 10% of South Africans own over 85% of all private wealth and a once-off 25% tax would reduce government debt by more than half. Imagine what a five-year wealth tax could do

You can get fired for bad tweets even when you’re not at work

The law has extended the disciplinary arm of employers — posts made on personal social media accounts may constitute a sufficient enough reason for dismissal

NSFW: The tricky business of OnlyFans

In an increasingly digital world, OnlyFans has given online creators a new way to make money on their own terms
Advertising

Subscribers only

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my...

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

More top stories

DRC: Tshisekedi and Kabila fall out

The country’s governing coalition is under strain, which could lead to even more acrimony ahead

Editorial: Crocodile tears from the coalface

Pumping limited resources into a project that is predominantly meant to extend dirty coal energy in South Africa is not what local communities and the climate needs.

Klipgat residents left high and dry

Flushing toilets were installed in backyards in the North West, but they can’t be used because the sewage has nowhere to go

Nehawu leaders are ‘betraying us’

The accusation by a branch of the union comes after it withdrew from a parliamentary process
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…