Can a democratic country outlaw fake news?
France is about to find out, after President Emmanuel Macron ordered a law to quash false information disseminated around electoral campaigns.
Impossible to enforce. Sure to backfire. Smacking of authoritarianism. Criticism is pouring in from media advocates, tech experts — and Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT.
Macron’s stance “could be just the beginning of actually censoring freedom of speech. We believe it is a very dangerous situation,” Xenia Fedorova, director of RT’s newly launched French-language channel, told The Associated Press.
Yet in a world where a falsehood can now reach billions instantaneously, and political manipulation is increasingly sophisticated, Macron argues something must be done.
A congressional report by U.S. Democrats released Thursday detailed apparent Russian efforts to undermine politics in 19 European countries since 2016, using cyberattacks, disinformation, clandestine social media operations, financing of fringe political groups and in extreme cases, assassination attempts. Macron’s own campaign suffered a big hacking attack last year, though the government later said it had found no proof of Russian involvement.