Macron reopens debate on ending anonymity online

In January 2019, Macron already said his ambition was to move "towards a progressive lifting of all forms of anonymity" as part of a discussion conducted as part of the 'Great National Debate'. [Esther Snippe]

French President Emmanuel Macron has reiterated his opposition to online anonymity, and stated that he will not close the door on the idea of dismantling platforms. EURACTIV France reports.

“In a democratic society, there should be no anonymity. You can’t walk around in the street wearing a hood. On the Internet, people allow themselves, because they are hooded behind a pseudonym, to say the worst abjections,” the outgoing president told Le Point on Tuesday (12 April), two weeks before the second round of the presidential elections.

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This is not the first time that Macron has made calls to tackle anonymity online.

In January 2019, he said his ambition was to move “towards a progressive lifting of all forms of anonymity” as part of a discussion conducted as part of the ‘Great National Debate’. His position is not new, but contrasts with that of the current secretary of state for digital affairs, Cédric O.

A few days after Samuel Patty’s murder in October 2020, O wrote on US publishing platform Medium that “the issue of ‘anonymity’ online is a very bad fight” on the grounds that social media users are “not anonymous, just pseudonymous”.

Law enforcement agencies and the courts, for instance, have ways to trace people who have committed offences online. Internet service providers and social media websites also have a great deal of information on users, like names, addresses, bank details, telephone numbers, IP addresses, and so forth.

“An identification requirement would not only be easily circumvented but also legally very uncertain,” O warned at the time.

The state secretary is due to step down, however, even if Macron wins the upcoming elections.

German Supreme Court orders Facebook to allow pseudonyms

Facebook must allow the use of pseudonyms on its platform Germany’s Federal Court of Justice ruled on Thursday (27 January). Until now, Facebook users were required to use their real names. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Targetting US giants

In the recent interview, Macron also attacked global “platforms [that] come to use our ancient or post-revolutionary freedoms to divert them from their essence”. “We need to create a public order, like in the street. This is not the state of nature,” he said.

“On social media networks, you can kill reputations, spread false news, drive people to suicide,” he continued, criticising the “world view” of Mark Zuckerberg, as well as that of Elon Musk, “shareholder of Twitter and […] libertarian”.

For Macron, the EU’s new rulebooks for online platforms, the Digital Markets and Digital Services Acts, “are the beginning of an answer” to the problem.

If it is “not too late” for Europe to catch up and offer alternatives to the American giants, “we must not rule out a dismantling if this proves necessary,” said Macron, citing the anti-trust policies of former US president Theodore Roosevelt as an example.

On cloud technologies, Macron acknowledged that building French and European solutions “will take time and represent an enormous investment”. “Ensuring our sovereignty in the areas of platforms, mobile applications, metaverses, the cloud and cybersecurity will take us ten years,” he added.

DMA: EU institutions agree on new rules for Big Tech

The new EU regulation targeting tech giants will become fully applicable in 2023, following an agreement reached between the EU co-legislators on Thursday (24 March).

[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi/Nathalie Weatherald]

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