French President Emmanuel Macron has faced comparisons to communist dictators after he called for social media networks to be “cut off” during the violent riots that have swept across the nation.
In a meeting with 300 mayors at the Élysée Palace in Paris earlier this week, embattled President Emmanuel Macron suggested that the government could implement a blackout to “cut off social networks” when “things get carried away” during riots, according to Le Figaro.
The country, which is somewhat accustomed to people rioting in the streets has faced the most destructive mayhem in recent memory following the police shooting of an Algerian teen after he sped away from a traffic stop in the Nanterre suburb of Paris last Tuesday. During the ensuing riots, over 5,000 vehicles have been destroyed and some 1,000 buildings were set on fire. So far, over 3,000 people, mostly teenagers, have been arrested.
Nevertheless, Macron’s call for censorship of social media to combat the violent riots — a measure typically only deployed in war zones or in despotic regimes — has prompted a fierce backlash, with many comparing his inclinations to those of communist dictators.
President of the centre-right Les Républicains group in the National Assembly, Olivier Marleix wrote on Twitter: “Cut social media? Like China, Iran, North Korea? Even if it is a provocation to divert attention, it is in very bad taste.”
Green Party MP Cyrielle Châtelain echoed the sentiment, questioning: “ We are going to manage social networks like in Russia or China?”
Even the head of the leftist La France Insoumise group in the National Assembly, Mathilde Panot mocked Macron, responding to the proposal by merely writing: “OK Kim Jung-Un”, in reference to the North Korean dictator.
Ironically, one of the few national leaders to refrain from criticising the president for his call for censorship was Fabien Roussel, the national secretary of the French Communist Party (PCF), who called for similar censorship measures to be imposed in response to the riots.
Attempting to quell the outrage, the government later tried to clarify the remarks from Macron, with Minister of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion Christophe Béchu noting that it was “not the announcement of a censorship law, in any way”.
However, it does appear that the government is still intent on pursuing options in terms of social media censorship, with Government spokesman Olivier Véran calling for a “bi-partisan” group of parliamentarians to discuss the matter. He said that the government could look to impose restrictions on geolocation services in social media apps, which he claimed allows rioters to organise and find each other during the chaos.