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Desperate Macron considers banning social media platforms in bid to stop French riots


In the wake of the heartbreaking death of Nahel, a young victim killed by a police officer on June 27, Emmanuel Macron is exerting pressure on popular social media platforms to address the alarming surge in videos depicting the ensuing riots.

Representatives from Snapchat and TikTok are set to meet with the Ministry of the Interior at 6.30pm on June 30, as reported by BFMTV.

This critical meeting comes on the heels of President Emmanuel Macron’s acknowledgment that these social networks have played a significant role in the recent unrest.

The meeting aims to provide an opportunity for authorities to request the removal of certain “sensitive” content from Snapchat and TikTok, whose headquarters, in terms of their French users, are based in the United Kingdom.

It remains to be seen how these foreign companies, not bound by French court orders, will respond to the request.

Since the evening of June 28, TikTok and Snapchat have become favoured platforms for rioters, many of whom are alarmingly young, to broadcast live or recorded videos showcasing their actions.

These videos capture not only clashes between rioters and law enforcement but also rampant looting.

TikTok has seen a surge in “liked” content that adopts an ironic tone regarding the riots, while Snapchat’s Snap Map tool enables real-time geolocation of areas where clashes are occurring.‌

Expressing his concern, President Macron said: “We have seen on several of them, Snapchat, TikTok, both the organisation of gatherings, but a form of mimicry of violence.”

He added: “We need to think about how young people use social networks […]. […] On the bans that should be imposed. […] And when things get out of hand, we may need to regulate them or cut them off. Above all, we shouldn’t do it in the heat of the moment, and I’m pleased that we didn’t have to.

“But I think it’s a real debate that we need to have, in the cold light of day. Because when it becomes a means of gathering people to kill, that’s a real issue.”

Snapchat told Tech&Co that it was closely monitoring the situation, with a “proactive” review of content published on the Snap Map since the start of the riots. For its part, TikTok says it is vigilant in applying its “Community Guidelines”.

The unrest was touched off by the shooting last Tuesday of the young man identified as Nahel, who was stopped while driving a Mercedes in suburban Paris.

Violence was driven by a mainly teenage backlash in the suburbs and urban housing projects against a French state that many young people with immigrant roots say routinely discriminates against them. Violence appeared to continue to ebb for a third night Tuesday.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.

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