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European Policy, Free Expression

CDTEU’s Letter to French Senate With Concerns About Bill on Countering Online Hatred (Projet de loi Avia)

Mr Christophe-André Frassa Sénat
Casier de la Poste 15 rue de Vaugirard
75291 Paris Cedex 06 France [email protected]

05 December 2019

Monsieur le Sénateur,

Re: Concerns about the Bill on Countering Online Hatred (Projet de loi Avia)

We, the undersigned, are civil society organisations defending freedom of expression and digital rights. We have extensive experience analysing legislation that engages freedom of expression online, including hate speech and terrorism laws.

We are writing to you to raise concerns about the draft Bill on Countering Online Hatred (Proposition de loi Avia, the Bill), passed in the National Assembly on 9 July 2019 and currently pending before the Senate.

We condemn racism and discrimination in all its forms, online and offline. Accordingly, we agree with the Bill’s stated purpose of protecting minority groups and other vulnerable persons against such discrimination. However, we believe that in its current form, the Bill fails to strike an appropriate balance between the right to equality and the rights to freedom of expression and privacy. We believe that if France is to provide a blueprint for how other European democracies should regulate hateful content online, it is essential for France to adopt laws that comply with international standards on freedom of expression.

Our concerns relate to the scope, enforcement regime and applicable sanctions under the Bill. We further note that the Bill might be in breach of European Union law.