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Macron pitches law against fake news

January 3, 2018

In his first New Year address as president, Emmanuel Macron said measures were needed to defend French democracy. Macron has previously taken aim at Russian media for allegedly spreading untruths ahead of elections.

Frankreich Emmanuel Macron
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo/L. Marin

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday said he would propose a new law to fight online fake news in the run-up to French elections.

"We are going to develop our legal means of protecting democracy against fake news," Macron said in a New Year's speech to the press in Paris. "If we want to protect liberal democracies, we must have strong legislation."

Macron had strongly criticized Russian media outlets for allegedly spreading false information shortly before his election in May.

The 40-year-old president said Russian outlets RT (formerly known as Russia Today) and Sputnik published "defamatory untruths" and "deceitful propaganda" in a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin following the vote.

Read more: Macron talks Syria, LGBT rights, fake news with Putin

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Macron has accused RT of "defamatory untruths"Image: picture alliance/NurPhoto/J. Arriens

Promising more details in the coming weeks, Macron said legal changes would allow judges to quickly respond to false online content by either deleting the information, closing the associated account or blocking access to the host website.

Online platforms would also be required to be more transparent about externally sponsored content, he said, while the amount of sponsored media would be capped.

France's audiovisual watchdog would also be given powers to "fight any destabilization attempt by television channels controlled or influenced by foreign states."

Read more: French presidential candidate Macron target of Russian 'fake news'

Macron said the press would be consulted on the law's details. The proposed measures, he added, would not harm press freedom because they would only be enforced during electoral campaigns: "None of the freedoms of the press must be called into question by this text."

The announcement came after German lawmakers passed new anti-fake news legislation that allows authorities to fine social media networks up to €50 million ($60 million) for failing to remove false or hateful information quickly.

amp/rc (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)