Do the French hate the Internet?

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HollandeThe 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.

Originally published at Technorati

8 thoughts on “Do the French hate the Internet?

  1. Well quite obviously yes, of course, the French are still madly in love with Minitel and hate the Internet.

    Nevermind that they have one the most competitive broadband access in the world and highest penetration rate.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_b

    And nevermind that the minitel was killed this year with hardly any one batting an eyelid.

    Also, one small thing, don’t forget that “the French” ? “the French government”.

    So no, not all French people are in favour of making ways against freedom of speech on Twitter (even if said speech is sickening) and not all are in favour of « la Taxe Google ».

    In fact, I’d argue most French people don’t care much and just use the Internet everyday as much as the people of any comparable country.

    On the other hand, if you consider personal data to be the raw material these companies make money from, as the report does, it can be clever to tax it as a way to put a disincentive on profit from people’s privacy.

    As for the government, show me a country where the government just groks the Internet. Everyone is trying to get their countries and laws to adapt to the Internet, France is no different.

  2. The French government have some strange policies in all manner of areas, and their apparent attitude towards the web is one of them.

  3. Yeah, weird stuff indeed at first glance, but I am not sure I disagree with some of the French initiatives, in particular with regards to a better monitoring and regulation on Twitter. We can't let people tweet just about anything slanderous then claim "freedom of speech". So I think it's a good move here.
    Not sure about the whole data taxing, though. Thanks for the post, Adi, and I will surely keep a close eye on these developments.
    Cheers from Quebec City,
    Frederic

  4. Interesting to read today that Google are paying the French media some $60 million for a kind of digital innovation fund. Very odd.

    • The fund is apparently on a per-project basis, to be paid out over 3 years. Earlier reports said that Google was willing to pay as much as € 50 million per year to settle. It seems Google negotiated well. This doesn't mean that Google is in the clear: they still have the Germans to deal with.

  5. Hi Adi, It seems the policies of their government make them hate the web :) I am a blogger and have a big circle of friends from all over the world but their isn't any French. It also reveals that they are away from this wold.

  6. i agree, weird stuff indeed at first glance, but I am not sure I disagree with some of the French initiatives, in particular with regards to a better monitoring and regulation on Twitter. We can't let people tweet just about anything slanderous then claim "freedom of speech". So I think it's a good move here.
    Not sure about the whole data taxing, though. Thanks for the post, Adi, and I will surely keep a close eye on these developments. http://techleaks.us/

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