France's global push for child safety online

France’s global push for child safety online

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has made protecting children online one of his top priorities during his re-election campaign. He now wants to make France a global influencer on the issue.

The Elysee Palace announced on Thursday the creation of a Child Online Protection Laboratory to improve the safety of minors online around the world. The initiative aims to attract activists, researchers and tech giants to learn best practices on issues ranging from privacy to digital literacy.

Meta Platforms, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, TikTok, and French platform Dailymotion have agreed to sign a charter, inspired by the Christchurch Call, a non-binding initiative spearheaded after the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attacks by Macron and the New Prime Minister. -Zealander Jacinda Ardern aimed at curbing the spread of terrorist material on the Internet.

Child safety online is a burning issue in Europe, encompassing key digital angles such as protecting privacy, combating cyberbullying, the proliferation of child pornography, age verification on websites and adult social networks, and mental well-being.

France’s decision is part of a broader set of actions on child safety in recent years, as French President and First Lady Brigitte Macron have pushed for reforms on the issue.

Secretary of State for Children Charlotte Caubel said credit cards could be a solution | Christophe Archambault/AFP via Getty images

But while some of their efforts have proven successful, others have yielded mixed results: The country’s landmark legislation aimed at preventing minors from accessing adult websites has so far not been fully implemented. work by pornographic platforms, more than two years after its vote.

Online age verification raises other issues, including privacy, and the rules are currently facing challenges in court as policymakers have left it to companies to find solutions on their own.

Emmanuel Macron has long used the Paris Peace Forum as a springboard for international initiatives on technology and cyber. Last year, he and UNICEF launched a call to action to defend children’s rights online.

During the first year, participants will work on the development of a trusted third-party system to verify the age of Internet users; on AI technology to detect conversations where sexual predators pose as minors; and the creation of a shared database across platforms to identify and remove non-consensual intimate images shared online.

Age Verification Deadline

It’s unclear how the Lab’s projects will interact with the flurry of child protection rules passed in France in recent years, including a law requiring smartphone and tablet makers to give parents the ability to control access. their children’s Internet and another to fight against cyberbullying at school.

It’s also unclear how it will work with the proposed EU regulation on combating online child sexual abuse, which Paris – unlike Berlin – backs Brussels.

Plans on age verification could, however, help France break the impasse it currently finds itself in when it comes to adult websites, as policymakers have long said that the solutions should come from industry.

On the ground, however, legislation requiring adult sites to verify the age of their users is running up against technical and legal hurdles, resulting in a legal tussle between broadcast and platform regulator Arcom and the sites. pornographic.

The next legal decision will come from France’s highest court – the Cour de cassation – which has until early January next year to decide whether or not to ask the Constitutional Council to assess the compatibility of France’s verification rules. age with the Constitution.

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