France vows crackdown against surge in anti-Semitism

PARIS (AFP) – Faced with a worrying surge in attacks on Jews, France plans to introduce tough new legislation governing social media platforms to combat online hate speech and officially recognise anti-Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism.

“France needs to draw new red lines, and we will do so, with concrete measures,” President Emmanuel Macron told Jewish leaders on Wednesday.

“For years and years we have condemned, announced plans, sometimes even passed laws. But we have not been able to act effectively, it’s true,” he said.

France, home to Europe’s biggest Jewish community, hopes that curbing incendiary hate speech online and an increased focus on educating against racism in schools will help cut down on real-world assaults.

Macron said the government would hold social platforms like Facebook responsible for quickly removing hate speech – most likely within 24 hours – with a new law to be adopted shortly.

Social networks will also have to make it easier to report offensive content, and they will have to reveal to police the identity of users spreading racist images and comments.

“Every minute this content stays online increases the harm done to victims and to our society,” Digital Affairs Minister Mounir Mahjoubi told France Info radio yesterday.

Germany in 2018 introduced fines of up to 50 million euros if online platforms don’t remove flagged hate speech within 24 hours.

But as of last June, no fine had been imposed against Facebook or Twitter during the first six months of the tougher law’s introduction.

France will also adopt a parliamentary resolution condemning anti-Zionism, which opposes the movement that established Israel but has also encompassed virulent criticism of Israeli policies.

It will join Germany, Britain and other European nations in adopting the definition of anti-Semitism set by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and endorsed by the European Council in December.