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PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron has said online platforms and foreign “propaganda” media are the main drivers of the spread of disinformation in the country – and he wants to bring them under control.

“Online platforms, influencers, but also citizens who sometimes occupy a considerable place in the public debate precisely through these new platforms (…) must have a framework of responsibility that remains to be built”, he added. he said Tuesday during the annual New Year’s speech. in front of the country’s press.

“The same must be true for foreign media authorized to broadcast on French soil,” added the president, clearly referring to Russian media such as Sputnik and RT.

Macron’s remarks built on the findings of a report handed to him earlier on Tuesday that offers guidelines for tackling disinformation and conspiracy theories online. At the end of September, he instructed a group of academics, sociologists, professors, journalists and historians to work on the issue, within a commission called “The Enlightenment in the Digital Age” – a reference to the 18th century French philosophical movement.

The president said that thinking about how to tackle fake news while protecting accurate information and reliable media should be done at EU level and go beyond national election deadlines.

The speech comes at a crucial time for Macron, months away from the high-stakes presidential poll in April in which he is expected to run again, and also in the middle strained relations with the press.

In 2017, Macron’s campaign was attacked by Russian-backed hackers and just a few weeks ago his wife, First Lady Brigitte Macron, was the target of a conspiracy theory falsely claiming that she is transgender.

As Macron’s La République en Marche party, governments and politicians prepare for an election campaign that should be riddled with disinformation, the French president has hinted at a new approach to foreign media, supporting a peer review-type “self-regulation” system by which the industry press identifies “reliable media”.

“I say it here with great gravity: today we are a sometimes naive democracy … We let propaganda actors financed by foreign authoritarian regimes – who do not respond in any way to a regime of responsibility or journalistic ethics – to inform and participate in the debate as journalists, ”he said.

In recent years, the French president has generally used the annual press address to introduce new media and information legislation. This year, however, he has too little time before the election to make sure any new rules actually materialize, but he hinted in his speech to potential future regulation if he is re-elected.

“On the issue of algorithms, we will collectively need to have debates, and no doubt regulations,” Macron said. He added that researchers should have more access to the ‘data and algorithms’ of online platforms – which should become a reality through the EU’s Digital Services Act, a content moderation bill currently under discussion. in Brussels and one of France’s priorities during its Council. of the EU Presidency.

Macron also promised the media that he would go after big tech companies again if they refused to pay for the news.

Slamming Google, the French president said Paris would ensure that the EU’s copyright reform, which grants press publishers so-called neighboring rights, is indeed effective – and will not hesitate to do more.

“We will complete, if necessary, our French and European texts in order to reach the end of the objective which was ours and remains ours: the fair remuneration of copyright and neighboring rights”, he said. declared.

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