Thursday, October 22

Conflans: how to fight against the dissemination of hateful content on social networks

The attacker had posted on his Twitter account the claim of his act accompanied by an image of his beheaded victim. He had been the subject of several reports.

Abdoullakh Abouyezidovitch A. did not hide his inclinations for violence on social networks. The assassin who beheaded the history and geography teacher, Samuel Paty, last Friday in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine for showing caricatures of Mahomet in class, had a Twitter account under the pseudo of @ Tchetchene_270, since closed, has unveiled the counterterrorism prosecutor on Saturday.

It is on this account that the assailant posted the claim of his act, accompanied by the photo of his victim: “From Abdullah, the servant of Allah, to Marcon [sic], the leader of the infidels, I executed one of your hellhounds who dared to belittle Muhammad, calm his fellows before you are inflicted a harsh retribution … “, he wrote.

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The Twitter profile had however been the subject of several reports. According to L’Obs, the account opened since June 2020 had posted more than 400 tweets in recent weeks but deleted most of its messages before taking action. It was notably spotted at the end of August by Internet users after the publication of a photomontage featuring a beheading, reveals Mediapart, according to whom the account in question is “very focused on religion”.

A month before the publication of the macabre photomontage, the @ Tchetchene_270 account had already been the subject of a report to the Pharos platform for “apologizing for violence, incitement to hatred, homophobia and racism”. One report among several in recent months, says Mediapart. On the other hand, the Licra claims to have, on July 27, reported an “anti-Semitic tweet” posted on the account.

In addition, the victim teacher had been the subject of threats on social networks. Among those in custody, a father of a student and an Islamist activist who had tried to expel the professor from his college. Videos had been published in particular on YouTube, revealing the identity of the teacher.

“Exemplary response”

For Gabriel Attal, government spokesman, “those who participated in this public lynching of this teacher, there are videos that were posted on social networks […], are in a way responsible for what happened. After that, I am not the justice, I am not the police, there is an investigation which is underway, these people are in police custody, but an absolutely exemplary response is needed on this subject.

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“Things started on social media with the videos, especially of this parent of a student, and they ended on it with this abject photo that was posted by the terrorist. So yes they have a responsibility and yes we have to arrive to better frame them, “he said on BFMTV this Sunday. Faced with these abuses, Marlène Schiappa intends to summon the bosses of the French subsidiaries of Twitter, Facebook or Google, but also Instagram, Tiktok, Snapchat next Tuesday at the Ministry of the Interior.

“The subject is no longer just to fight against terrorism, but also against all those who create the climate of separatism. There is a real hard fight to be waged against this kind of propaganda, on social networks in particular, and against the associated associative or commercial structures “, explains the Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin to Parisian.

A new Avia law?

But how to fight against this spread of hatred online and its consequences? This is not the first time that social networks have been singled out after an act of violence. This was already the case for example for Facebook when the terrorist from Christchurch in New Zealand broadcast his act of barbarism live on the platform. This is still the case today with the assassin of Samuel Paty.

“For the moment, the public authorities have not found a solution to cure this problem of the dissemination of words and acts of violence, we want to protect freedom of expression and we cannot regulate hate speech” , blows to L’Express Alexandre Lazarègue, lawyer specializing in digital law and press law. However, there have been proposals, in particular with the Avia law on online hatred, rebutted by the Constitutional Council last June in the name of the protection of freedom of expression. “This law imposed strict conditions on the platforms and could have been effective in this specific case, perhaps if it had been passed, the account of this gentleman (Abdoullakh Abouyezidovitch A.) would have been deleted,” said the lawyer.

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Because if the giants of social networks have “very recently” tightened the screw in the face of hate content, especially Twitter or Facebook, “it remains at the discretion of the platforms, and we cannot afford it”, adds Alexandre Lazarègue “We are at the mercy of the reaction of social networks, which themselves depend a lot on reports from other Internet users, “he said. To avoid this, “we must give a legal regime and the means to the platforms to make this regulation”.

The problem of anonymity

Another obstacle to the regulation of content on social networks: anonymity. The use of a nickname “guarantees freedom of expression”, but for the lawyer, it is necessary that the users “can be quickly identified by the platforms when they make hate speech, it is necessary that the social networks know who owns the account. ”

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Here again, Alexandre Lazarègue pleads for the establishment of a legal regime which would impose this kind of measure. Especially since, as he points out, identity theft on the internet is “very easy”. From now on, the government must “take its responsibilities and propose a law emanating from the executive, imposing on social networks their responsibility in the distribution of this content. They have a publisher role, like a publishing house, and therefore they must accept the role of the regulator, ”said the lawyer.

If images as shocking as that of Samuel Paty beheaded can be found on Twitter today, it is because “we have failed to empower social networks and websites, in particular because they are international platforms and not national “, analyzes Alexandre Lazarègue. “For decades, the internet has been a space of total freedom, we find everything, and we have access to videos of violence, murders … And the French legislator, in the name of freedom of expression , did not prohibit this kind of videos “, adds the specialist lawyer.

If regulation is imposed by law in France, “it will be a good first safeguard even if there will always be flaws”, according to Alexandre Lazarègue for whom the solution will go through regulation at the international level on the standards of Internet.

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