Fight against terrorist content on the internet: last step taken in the Senate

Like a symbol. The mixed parity committee meeting on July 19 had reached an agreement. This meeting between seven deputies and seven senators aimed to find a compromise on the bill on the prevention of the dissemination of terrorist content on the internet. It was the very first of its kind, since the legislative elections. Perhaps the sign of the new relationship between the two chambers of Parliament.

It must be said that the text was not very controversial – much less than the following ones, whether it is the one said to “sanitary watch” or the one on the purchasing power.

Adopted on February 16 by the National Assembly, the bill aims to adapt into French law a new European regulation in the fight against terrorism on the Internet. Very concretely, the bill obliges any provider of hosting services – whether they are domiciled in the country where the web page is consulted, or in another country – to remove terrorist content, within the hour, after an injunction ARCOM, ex-CSA, or its deputy.

Adopted by the Senate on July 12

It will therefore have been necessary to wait five months for the text arrives at the Upper House of Parliament. In question, the interruption of parliamentary work linked to the presidential and legislative elections. The bill was adopted, in broad outline, on July 12.

Only certain provisions on appeals posed a problem for senators, but in “a spirit of compromise”, (dixit Nathalie Goulet, rapporteur for the Senate), these modifications had been erased by a joint joint committee.

“Strengthening our legal arsenal”

In session, Tuesday July 26, 2022, the minister representing the government on the bench on this text, Caroline Cayeux, spoke of a “decisive tool in the fight that [le Gouvernement mène] against terrorism. She explained that the European regulation had been in place since June 7, but that “to ensure the proper functioning of this system, it was essential that independent authorities responsible for ensuring and monitoring the legality of the removal of content [en l’occurrence l’ARCOM, ndlr] be designated by each Member State”.

The “legislative vehicle” questions

Some senators wondered about the method: using a bill – that is to say a text from parliamentarians rather than the government – to transpose into law a European regulation.

Thus the senators “Les Indépendants”, despite being supporters of the presidential majority, expressed their “reservations” on this method which deprives parliamentarians of any impact study and of an opinion from the Council of State. “I hope that this practice is now a thing of the past and that this new legislature will put an end to it,” pleaded Senator Franck Ménonville. An analysis shared by Guy Benarroche, representing the environmental group of the Senate and who spoke at the podium of this method as a “sleight of hand which tarnishes the sincerity of the democratic process. »

The socialist Jérôme Durain even spoke of “abuse”, wishing that the General Secretariat of the Government undertake to no longer have recourse to this method.

Still doubts about the constitutionality of the bill

Since 2020 and the decision of the Constitutional Council to slash a large part of the Avia law, the texts regulating content on the internet have been under the threat of censorship by our supreme court. Also denouncing the method, the Communists thus warned the government in session: “We have the feeling that the European regulations give you the pretext to make us vote for what has already been deleted – rightly – elsewhere. »

The next few months will tell if the Communists were right to worry about the fate of this bill and if the Constitutional Council amputates the text or not.

“There remains the question of means”

Last important point raised in the session: that of the means, whether those of ARCOM or the Pharos platform, which is dedicated to reporting illegal content on the Internet. Centrist Senator Nathalie Goulet explained that “online hatred is a strong link” in the chain that can lead to terrorist acts, before launching from the podium: “We will remain vigilant. »

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Fight against terrorist content on the internet: last step taken in the Senate

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