Recently, French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira announced that she wants the power to quash speech as she and her government see fit, stripping judicial niceties from the process of shutting people up, says Paris-based news outlet France24.
Justice Minister Christiane Taubira has said she will push for legal reforms that would help French authorities crack down on racism and anti-Semitism online in much the same way they do with pedophilia. The proposals include empowering French authorities to shut down websites hosting content that is deemed illicit without prior court approval.
“Crimes recognized in public spaces must also be recognized as such on the Internet,” Taubira [said], echoing other recent statements on combating terrorism. “Our challenge is to find the most appropriate responses, but we are determined to wage an unmerciful battle against racism and anti-Semitism on the Internet.”
Almost no one likes hate speech, but neither should the government of a modern, secular state be in the business of defining and targeting it… unless and until it rises to the level of incitement. It’s fairly easy to get people to agree (as do I) that racist and anti-Semitic invective should not be tolerated. For me, that means that sanctions should be social, from verbal pushback to full-throated rebuttals to ostracism.
Intemperate words and pictures are rarely, I think, a matter for the police or the courts.
Taubira’s well-intentioned but dangerous proposal has every likelihood of defining public discourse down to the comfort level of the most thin-skinned and vocal members of society. And I predict that this will please and benefit no group quite as much as French Muslims who believe that the Charlie Hebdo victims had it coming. The hate-speech crackdown will feel like vindication to them, and/or like a government-endorsed justification après la lettre.
Brendan O’Neill at Reason explains how illiberal France’s plan is: