French President Targets Fake News for Future Elections

There has been plenty of talk about fake news since the 2016 presidential election pitting Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump. So-called fake news may have contributed to the eventual outcome, prompting politicians at home and abroad to call for better regulation of social media and news outlets to prevent fake news from influencing elections. Count French president Emmanuel Macron among them.

Macron, who won his country’s presidential election in 2017 against Marine Le Pen, has stated that he wants new laws put in place to protect the integrity of future elections by controlling fake news. In a recent speech made to journalists, Macron made it clear he would be presenting new legislation in the near future.

Sources say the legislation targets websites, broadcasters, and social media outlets that add to the proliferation of fake news. The Macron plan calls for requiring website owners to divulge their financing and capping the amount of money they can take in for sponsored content.

Fake news published during election campaigns could be subject to legal action under the legislation. The legislation allegedly gives the French government authority to remove fake news or block entire websites through its CSA media arm.

Macron’s Personal Experience

The French president takes fake news seriously as a result of his own experiences. During the 2017 campaign, Macron was attacked by Le Pen for allegedly holding money in offshore accounts in the Bahamas. Not only did Macron seize on the attacks as evidence of fake news, he went so far as to file an official complaint against the Le Pen campaign. His supporters said that the stories Le Pen cited ultimately influenced a televised debate between the two.

Macron was also subjected to accusations of foreign financing from Saudi Arabia by a website that was designed to look like a well-known Belgian newspaper. Officials from the Macron campaign then went on to accuse Russia of attempting to influence the election through a combination of fake information and military intimidation.

Macron even went after Russian President Vladimir Putin during the latter’s visit to France shortly after the election. He publicly accused two Russian news sources for spreading fake news in an attempt to influence voters. His new legislation is aimed at putting a stop to the spread of such news during election cycles.

Opponents of the legislation, including Le Pen, say that a government crackdown on fake news is akin to silencing French citizens. Their number one concern is who will be the arbiter of fake news. The problem, they contend, is that officials favorable to the current government may use the legislation to silence legitimate differences of opinion simply by labeling those opinions as fake news.

Macron insists that controlling fake news is vital to securing democracy. He said his legislation will prevent foreign propaganda from infiltrating social media while preventing foreign broadcasters from destabilizing French elections by broadcasting fake news. It appears as though Macron has the support he needs to get the proposed legislation made law.