The French seem to have a peculiar relationship with the web. One suspects it stems from the early days of the web in the 90’s, when the Internet we know and love was taking off, leaving the Minitel system preferred by the French at the time to flounder.
Whilst the tensions have largely bubbled under the surface, they are coming to head over the past year. We’ve seen an ongoing row between Google and the French government, with French news publishers accusing Google of stealing content when they list articles in Google News. Google in return threatened to block access to French sites if they pursued a plan to charge Google to refer to their content.
Next in the French cross-hairs could be Facebook. The Register reports that the French government are looking to ‘tax data, like we tax pollution’. It’s a proposal aired in a new report on how the digital economy should be taxed, and suggests taxing the likes of Facebook and Amazon for any data the companies store about their French users.
The tax levied would depend on how personal the data is, with the more personal the more tax. So sites like Facebook, with a whole heap of (voluntarily submitted) data about us all, would be liable for huge taxes.
Another bizarre element of the proposal is that the French government would then decide how ethical the data is, with data deemed un-ethical then charged yet higher taxes. This would rely on companies self-reporting what data they collect, with external auditors assessing the claims for accuracy. What an amazing pile of bureaucratic BS.
The French don’t stop there though. They’re also on the backs of Twitter. Courts in France are demanding that Twitter hand over user data of anyone accused of making racist or antisemitic tweets.
The case was brought by the French Union of Jewish Students, who argued that a raft of tweets posted using the #unbonjuif (or #agoodjew) hashtags broke French law. Twitter quickly removed the offending tweets, but the union are demanding that the company exercises much tighter control over what people post.