Macron says G7 countries should work together to tackle toxic online content

In a press conference at the Élysée Palace, French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated his focus on online regulation, and more particularly toxic content. He called for more international cooperation as the Group of Seven (G7) summit is taking place later this week in the U.K.

“The third big topic that could benefit from efficient multilateralism and that we’re going to bring up during this G7 summit is online regulation,” Macron said. “This topic, and I’m sure we’ll talk about it again, is essential for our democracies.”

Macron also used that opportunity to sum up France’s efforts on this front. “During the summer of 2017, we launched an initiative to tackle online terrorist content with then Prime Minister Theresa May. At first, and as crazy as it sounds today, we mostly failed. Because of free speech, people told us to mind our own business, more or less.”

In 2019, there was a horrendous mass mosque shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. And you could find multiple copies of the shooting videos on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Macron invited New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, several digital ministers of the G7 and tech companies to Paris.

They all signed a nonbinding pledge called the Christchurch Call. Essentially, tech companies that operate social platforms agreed to increase their efforts when it comes to blocking toxic content — and terrorist content in particular.

Facebook, Twitter, Google (and YouTube), Microsoft, Amazon and other tech companies signed the pledge. 17 countries and the European Commission also backed the Christchurch Call. There was one notable exception — the U.S. didn’t sign it.

“This strategy led to some concrete results because all online platforms that signed it have followed through,” Macron said. “Evidence of this lies in what happened in France last fall when we faced terrorist attacks.” In October 2020, French middle-school teacher Samuel Paty was killed and beheaded by a terrorist.

“Platforms flagged content and removed content within an hour,” he added.

Over time, more countries and online platforms announced their support for the Christchurch Call. In May, President Joe Biden joined the international bid against toxic content. “Given the number of companies incorporated in the U.S., it’s a major step and I welcome it,” Macron said today.

But what comes next after the Christchurch Call? First, Macron wants to convince more countries to back the call — China and Russia aren’t part of the supporters for instance.

“The second thing is that we have to push forward to create a framework for all sorts of online hate speech, racist speech, anti-semitic speech and everything related to online harassment,” Macron said.

He then briefly referred to French regulation on this front. Last year, French regulation on hate speech on online platforms has been widely deemed as unconstitutional by France’s Constitutional Council, the top authority in charge of ruling whether a new law complies with the constitution.

The list of hate-speech content was long and broad while potential fines were very high. The Constitutional Council feared that online platforms would censor content a bit too quickly.

But that doesn’t seem to be stopping Macron from backing new regulation on online content at the European level and at the G7 level.

“It’s the only way to build an efficient framework that we can bring at the G20 summit and that can help us fight against wild behavior in online interactions — and therefore wild behavior in our new world order,” Macron said, using the controversial ‘wild behavior’ metaphor (ensauvagement). That term was first popularized by far-right political figures.

According to him, if world leaders fail to find some common grounds when it comes to online regulation, it’ll lead to internet fragmentation. Some countries may choose to block several online services for instance.

And yet, recent events have showed us that this ship has sailed already. The Nigerian government suspended Twitter operations in the country just a few days ago. It’s easy to agree to block terrorist content, but it becomes tedious quite quickly when you want to moderate other content.

#emmanuel-macron, #europe, #hate-speech, #macron, #policy, #regulation, #social, #toxic-content

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Macron promotes European tech ecosystem in an interview with Zennström

French President Emmanuel Macron sat down with Niklas Zennström for an interview on the European tech ecosystem. Macron listed everything that’s needed to create European tech giants that compete with the biggest American and Chinese tech companies.

According to him, Europe needs to focus on “financing, integration of our markets and an actual single market, regulation for privacy and technological innovation, and having European data, a European cloud and European technologies to be sure that we don’t depend on others,” Macron said.

Zennström founded Skype and is currently running prolific investment firm Atomico. As Zennström isn’t a reporter, he wasn’t particularly confrontational during the pre-recorded interview. Earlier today, his firm released its annual State of European Tech report and held a virtual conference that featured Macron’s interview.

In the report, you can see that French startups attracted over $5 billion in funding rounds in 2020. Macron listed some of the reasons why French startups have been growing, including the French Tech Visa, some tax reforms (flat tax on capital gains and the end of the wealth tax except on real estate), some private efforts to improve diversity, such as Station F and Ecole 42, etc.

But Zennström didn’t come to the Elysée Palace for Macron’s year-end performance review. Macron wants to foster a truly European tech ecosystem without borders. “We need European financing, European solutions, European talent. Now, when you look at the map, we have what we call the GAFA in the U.S., the BATX in China and GDPR in Europe,” Macron said.

“We have regulation, fair point. But we don’t have the equivalent of these very, very large caps,” he added.

According to him, it starts with European financing. Last year, the French government has convinced institutional investors to invest more heavily in late-stage tech companies. Other countries should follow suit to create more public tech companies in Europe.

Earlier this year, the French government unveiled an ambitious support plan for startups during the economic crisis. “It’s been copied by other European countries,” a source close to the president said.

But Macron doesn’t want to be the inspiration for other countries. He wants to position himself as the leader of a single European tech ecosystem.

“We need an actual European digital market. Today, a lot of entrepreneurs have to deal with 27 regulations. This why the different directives arriving in the coming weeks, around mid-December — for digital services and digital markets — are critical,” he said.

And yet, the current economic crisis has shown us that European governments all have their own stimulus plans. In Europe, when it comes to taking ambitious economic decisions, it’s hard to find common ground.

#atomico, #emmanuel-macron, #europe, #french-tech, #la-french-tech, #macron, #niklas-zennstrom, #policy

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Dozens of tech companies sign ‘Tech for Good Call’ following French initiative

A couple of years ago, French President Emmanuel Macron initiated the Tech for Good Summit by inviting 50 tech CEOs to discuss the challenges in the tech industry and make some announcements.

Usually, tech CEOs meet ahead of Viva Technology, a tech event in Paris. This year, Viva Technology had to be canceled, which means that tech CEOs couldn’t get together, take a group photo and say that they want to make the world a better place.

In the meantime, dozens of tech CEOs have chosen to sign a common pledge. Despite the positive impact of some technological breakthroughs, they collectively recognize that everything is not perfect with the tech industry.

“Recognizing that such progress may be hindered by negative externalities, including unfair competition such as abuse of dominant or systemic position, and fragmentation of the internet; that, without appropriate safeguards, technology can also be used to threaten fundamental freedoms and human rights or weaken democracy; that, unless we implement appropriate measures to combat it, some individuals and organizations inevitably use it for criminal purposes, including in the context of conflicts,” the pledge says.

Among other things, companies that sign the pledge agree to cooperate when it comes to fighting toxic content, such as child sexual abuse material and terrorist content. They promise to “responsibly address hate speech, disinformation and opinion manipulation.”

Interestingly, they also agree that they should “contribute fairly to the taxes in countries where [they] operate.” This has been an ongoing issue between the French government and the U.S. government. The OECD and the European Union have also discussed implementing a tax on tech giants so that they report to tax authorities in each country where they operate.

Other commitments mention privacy, social inclusiveness, diversity and equity, fighting all sorts of discriminations and more. As the name suggests, the pledge revolves around using technology for good things.

Now let’s talk about who signed the pledge. There are some well-known names, such as Sundar Pichai from Alphabet (Google), Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, Brad Smith from Microsoft, Evan Spiegel from Snap and Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square. Other companies include Cisco, Deliveroo, Doctolib, IBM, OpenClassrooms, Uber, etc.

Some nonprofit organizations also signed the pledge, such as the Mozilla Foundation, Simplon, Tech for Good France, etc.

But it’s more interesting to see who’s not on the list. Amazon and Apple have chosen not to sign the pledge. There have been discussions with Apple but the company eventually chose not to participate.

“Amazon didn’t want to sign it and I invite you to ask them directly,” a source close to the French president said. The French government is clearly finger-pointing in Amazon’s case.

This is an odd move as it’s a non-binding pledge. You can say that you want to “contribute fairly to taxes” and then argue that you’re paying everything that you owe — tax optimization is not tax evasion, after all. Worse, you can say that you’re building products with “privacy by design” in mind while you’re actually building entire companies based on personalized ads and micro-targeting.

In other words, the Tech for Good summit was created for photo opportunities (like this photo from 2018 below). Tech CEOs want to be treated like heads of state, while Macron wants to position himself as a tech-savvy president. It’s a win-win for them, and a waste of time for everyone else.

Some nonprofit organizations and governance groups are actually working hard to build digital commons. But big tech companies are using the same lexicon with these greenwashing-style campaigns.

In 2018, hundreds of organizations signed the Paris Call. In 2019, the biggest social media companies signed the Christchurch Call. And now, we have the Tech for Good Call. Those calls can’t replace proper regulation.

Image Credits: Charles Platiau / AFP / Getty Images

#emmanuel-macron, #europe, #france-newsletter, #policy, #startups, #tech-for-good, #tech-for-good-call, #tech-for-good-summit

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U.S. charges Russian hackers blamed for Ukraine power outages and the NotPetya ransomware attack

Six Russian intelligence officers accused of launching some of the “world’s most destructive malware” — including an attack that took down the Ukraine power grid in December 2015 and the NotPetya gloibal ransomware attack in 2017 — have been charged by the U.S. Justice Department.

Prosecutors said the group of hackers, who work for the Russian GRU and reside in Russia, are behind the “most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group.”

“No country has weaponized its cyber capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” said John Demers, U.S. U.S. assistant attorney general for national security. “Today the Department has charged these Russian officers with conducting the most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group, including by unleashing the NotPetya malware. No nation will recapture greatness while behaving in this way.”

The six accused Russian intelligence officers. (Image: FBI/supplied)

In charges laid out Monday, the hackers are accused of developing and launching attacks using the KillDisk and Industroyer (also known as Crash Override) to target and disrupt the power supply in Ukraine, which left hundreds of thousands of customers without electricity two days before Christmas. The prosecutors also said the hackers were behind the NotPetya attack, a ransomware attack that spread across the world in 2017, causing billions of dollars in damages.

The hackers are also said to have used Olympic Destroyer, designed to knock out internet connections during the opening ceremony of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Prosecutors also blamed the six hackers for trying to disrupt the 2017 French elections by launching a “hack and leak” operation to discredit the then-presidential frontrunner, Emmanuel Macron, as well as launching targeted spearphishing attacks against the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the U.K.’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, tasked with investigating the use of the Russian nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury, U.K. in 2018.

The accused hackers — Yuriy Sergeyevich Andrienko, 32; Sergey Vladimirovich Detistov, 35; Pavel Valeryevich Frolov, 28; Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev, 29; Artem Valeryevich Ochichenko, 27; and Petr Nikolayevich Pliskin, 32 — are all charged with seven counts of conspiracy to hack, commit wire fraud, and causing computer damage.

#articles, #christmas, #crime, #cyberattack, #cybercrime, #electricity, #emmanuel-macron, #government, #malware, #petya, #phishing, #ransomware, #russia, #security, #south-korea, #ukraine, #united-kingdom, #united-states

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French parliament passes porn age-verification legislation

French President Emmanuel Macron.

Enlarge / French President Emmanuel Macron. (credit: LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The French parliament has agreed to pass a new law requiring age verification on pornographic websites to prevent access by children under 18, Politico reports. The initiative has the support of President Emmanuel Macron, who called for such a measure in January.

The French law gives sites discretion to decide how to perform age verification. Requiring users to enter a credit card number seems to be one of the most popular options.

According to Politico, the law gives French regulators the power to create a blacklist for overseas sites that don’t comply with the new rules. If a site doesn’t respond to a warning from French officials, they can “ask the Paris Court of Justice to send an order to telecom operators to block the access to these sites from France.”

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#emmanuel-macron, #france, #policy, #pornography

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EU digs in on digital tax plan, after US quits talks

The European Commission has reiterated its commitment to pushing ahead with a regional plan for taxing digital services after the US quit talks aimed at finding agreement on reforming tax rules — ramping up the prospects of a trade war.

Yesterday talks between the EU and the US on a digital services tax broke down after U.S. treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, walked out — saying they’d failed to make any progress, per Reuters.

The EU has been eyeing levying a tax of between 2% and 6% on the local revenues of platform giants.

Today the European Commission dug in in response to the US move, with commissioner Paolo Gentiloni reiterating the need for “one digital tax” to adapt to what he dubbed “the reality of the new century” — and calling for “understanding” in the global negotiation.

However he also repeated the Commission’s warning that it will push ahead alone if necessary, saying that if the US’ decision to quit talks means achieving global consensus impossible it will put “a new European proposal on the table”.

Following the break down of talks, France also warned it will go ahead with a digital tax on tech giants this year — reversing an earlier suspension that had been intended to grease the negotiations.

The New York Times reports French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, describing the US walk-out as “a provocation”, and complaining about the country “systematically threatening” allies with sanctions.

The issue of ‘fair taxes’ for platforms has been slow burning in Europe for years, with politicians grilling tech execs in public over how little they contribute to national coffers and even urging the public to boycott services like Amazon (with little success).

Updating the tax system to account for digital giants is also front and center for Ursula von der Leyen’s Commission — which is responding to the widespread regional public anger over how little tech giants pay in relation to the local revenue they generate.

European Commission president von der Leyen, who took up her mandate at the back end of last year, has said “urgent” reform of the tax system is needed — warning at the start of 2020 that the European Union would be prepared to go it alone on “a fair digital tax” if no global accord was reached by the end of this year.

At the same time, a number of European countries have been pushing ahead with their own proposals to tax big tech — including the UK, which started levying a 2% digital services tax on local revenue in April; and France, which has set out a plan to tax tech giants 3% of their local revenues.

This gives the Commission another clear reason to act, given its raison d’être is to reduce fragmentation of the EU’s Single Market.

Although it faces internal challenges on achieving agreement across Member States, given some smaller economies have used low national corporate tax rates to attract inward investment, including from tech giants.

The US, meanwhile, has not been sitting on its hands as European governments move ahead to set their own platform taxes. The Trump administration has been throwing its weight around — arguing US companies are being unfairly targeted by the taxes and warning that it could retaliate with up to 100% tariffs on countries that go ahead. Though it has yet to do so.

On the digital tax reform issue the US has said it wants a multilateral agreement via the OECD on a global minimum. And a petite entente cordiale was reached between France and the US last summer when president Emmanuel Macron agreed the French tech tax would be scraped once the OECD came up with a global fix.

However with Trump’s negotiators pulling out of international tax talks with the EU the prospect of a global understanding on a very divisive issue looks further away than ever.

Though the UK said today it remains committed to a global solution, per Reuters which quotes a treasury spokesman.

Earlier this month the US also launched a formal investigation into new or proposed digital taxes in the EU, including the UK’s levy and the EU’s proposal, and plans set out by a number of other EU countries, claiming they “unfairly target” U.S. tech companies — lining up a pipeline of fresh attacks on reform plans.

#amazon, #austria, #czech-republic, #economy, #emmanuel-macron, #europe, #european-commission, #european-union, #france, #italy, #oecd, #president, #spain, #tax, #tax-avoidance, #tax-haven, #trump-administration, #united-kingdom, #united-states

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C4 Ventures raises $88M fund for post-Series A startups, in a post-COVID19 world

C4 Ventures, the Paris -based VC, has raised a new €80 million ($88 million) “Fund II”. The fund was founded by Pascal Cagni, a former Europe boss of Apple, and includes cofounder Raph Crouan, another Apple alumni previously with Startupbootcamp and is currently President of La FrenchTech. C4 is designed to be a “post-Series A” fund and normally invests around €3-4 million euros.

The new fund is described as a “boutique” VC which will focus on tech which will thrive in “post-Covid” world. Recruited by the late Steve Jobs, Cagni started the fund within months of leaving Apple, but the firm didn’t become significant until 2014. Outside of business, Cagni is an “ally” to President Emmanuel Macron and has worked on several initiatives to boost France’s technology and entrepreneurship sectors.

Cagni, who was head of Apple in Europe from 2000 to 2012, said: “Having witnessed first-hand technology’s unique power to drive real-time behavioral change, we believe that, although Covid-19 is going to bring about an economic slowdown, it is also going to be a breeding ground for innovation and change through disruptive tech,” said Pascal Cagni. “We felt confident that we should, as planned, raise and deploy capital during this period.”

Fund II has a good head start, having invested in seven companies which will be able to adapt to a Post-Covid world including:

• Zoov, a French electric bike-sharing platform

DriveNets, a software company adapting the cloud model to networking, allowing consumer service providers to scale up for lower costs.

• Trouva, a European online homeware marketplace helping independent local shops scale their offers online.

C4 has previously invested in include Nest, the smart thermostat company acquired by Google for $3.2 billion, and Graphcore, an AI chip start-up now valued at over $2 billion. But it also put cash into Anki, a consumer robotics company that went bust last year after raising around $200 million.

#anki, #apple, #apple-inc, #apple-store, #artificial-intelligence, #cofounder, #companies, #drivenets, #emmanuel-macron, #europe, #france, #google, #graphcore, #hardware-club, #head, #industries, #paris, #pascal-cagni, #president, #raph-crouan, #software, #tc, #techstars

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Affäre um Macron-Vertrauten – Russe steckt hinter Sex-Video-Skandal in Paris

Paris: Affäre um Macron-Vertrauten in Paris – ein Russe steckt hinter dem Sexvideo Sex, Lügen und eine Prise Kalter Krieg: Das sind die Zutaten einer Affäre, die derzeit den Pariser Kommunalwahlkampf aufmischt.
Foto: ETIENNE LAURENT / AFP

#emmanuel-macron, #frankreich, #frankreich-wahlen, #news-ausland, #paris, #politik-ausland, #putin-wladimir

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