French Law on measures to combat the spread of fake news sent to EU Commission

Summary :

The aim of the draft law is to combat the spread of fake news, particularly at election time, via audiovisual media and the internet.

The proposed provisions contain the requirement for internet service providers and hosts to cooperate in combating the spread of fake news. These intermediaries would thus be required to implement an easily accessible and visible reporting mechanism, immediately inform the competent public authorities of reports sent to them, and make public the means they will be employing to combat the spread of illegal fake news.

Such a duty to cooperate is stated in Article 6-I of Law No 2004-575 of 21 June 2004 on confidence in the digital economy, with regard to various forms of illegal content (condoning crimes against humanity, advocating terrorism, inciting racial hatred, etc.).

In order to make internet users aware of the origin of information to which they are exposed and to make it easier to understand and verify the veracity of said information, the draft law intends – only during election campaigns – to impose on online platforms a more stringent transparency requirement vis-à-vis the content of information promoted in exchange for payment (‘sponsored content’).

Article L111-7 of the Consumer Code states that operators of online platforms must provide consumers with reliable, clear and transparent information as to whether there is a contractual relationship, capital ties or payment for the benefit of said operators when they influence the ranking of content, goods and services suggested or made available online. This requirement will, in particular, impose a requirement on platforms stipulating that they must clearly indicate, e.g. by displaying an icon, that content has been promoted in exchange for payment.

The draft law aims to make this transparency requirement more stringent by requiring platforms to inform the public of the identity of the advertiser, those inspecting the advertiser or on whose behalf the advertiser is acting, as well as the amounts (exceeding a limit to be defined by decree) spent on promoting this content. Since only information content is concerned, content aimed at promoting goods or services, such as those published on e-commerce platforms, is not subject to this more stringent transparency requirement.

The draft text of this notification is already available in its original version. The translations will be available within two to five weeks.

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