How France's anti-fake news law in fact threatens the truth

By and

The French government has drafted legislation, dubbed the “anti-fake news law”, aimed at combatting the proliferation of false information during election campaigns. It was prompted by a mass data dump of confidential emails and fake documents relating to Emmanuel Macron and his campaign staff shortly before the final round of last year’s presidential elections, which became known as the “Macron Leaks”. The bill, which would empower judges to order the de-publication of information ruled to be fake, and even to block foreign media in France, has created such controversy that the parliamentary debates have now been postponed until later this summer to allow for more than 200 amendments to be considered. Here, Fabrice Arfi and Antton Rouget argue why the new legislation, if it becomes law, would in fact severely curb the freedom of the press, as in fact demonstrated by the very history of the “Macron Leaks”.

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It was close to midnight on Friday May 5th 2017 when Emmanuel Macron and members of his campaign staff left the offices of Mediapart after two and a half hours of live streamed interviews, just two days before the second and final round of voting in France’s presidential elections. The group had barely left the premises when their mobile phones began buzzing: an English-language imageboard website called 4Chan was posting the contents of thousands of emails hacked from the accounts of Macron’s election campaign team.