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An Internet Ombudsman for France

January 11, 2017

France is considering appointing an official internet ombudsman to regulate complaints about online content. A bill to this effect was tabled in the French Senate on 25 November 2016.

According to Nathalie Goulet, the senator responsible for the bill, the ombudsman could be called upon in cases where the internet service provider does not possess the legal knowledge necessary to make an informed decision in relation to specific requests for the takedown or blocking of web content. Once the complaint had been deferred to the ombudsman, he would have seven days in which to render an opinion. The opinion would be final but non-binding.

The creation of the post of ombudsman should correct certain flaws of the present legislation by giving internet service providers assistance in dealing with requests for takedowns or blocking of content without fearing the legal consequences of their decisions. According to the provisions of the bill, said service providers would not face sanctions as long as they complied with the decision of the ombudsman.

The downside of the proposed legislation is that one single person would be responsible for deciding whether content is licit or illicit. At the same time, fear of facing sanctions for non-compliance may incite service providers to apply the decision of the ombudsman without taking into consideration its possible flaws.

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