– Spurs Free Speech Fears –
France’s President Emmanuel Macron is ordering a law to foil efforts to disseminate false information during electoral campaigns.
In a New Years speech to journalists, Macron said he is ordering a new “legal arsenal” whereby news outlets must reveal their owners and where their money comes from.
The new law could see a cap on money to produce content, and allow emergency actions to block websites.
French regulators could suspend media controlled or influenced by foreign powers.
Russian outlets like RT and Sputnik, whose coverage was seen as favoring Conservative candidate Marine Le Pen, could be censored.
Media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders is also watching.
“We are not opposed to the principle of a law against fake news, but the point is to be able to write a law without endangering the freedom to reveal things about political, social, and economical life,” said Christophe Deloire, Secretary General for Reporters Without Borders.
Some fear banning fake news will backfire on human rights grounds, because there is no legal definition on the term.
Government shutdowns of websites may also have unintended effects, such as satirists and journalists being accidentally targeted.