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The National Assembly approved in commission a bill that establishes a numerical majority at 15 years of age for children and that obliges social networks to control the age of their users. If the law is definitively enacted, any parent could ask a social network to delete his son’s account, up to the age of 18. Before this is the case, it must also be adopted by Parliament and therefore must pass through the Senate.

National Assembly // Source: Flickr

The screw still tends to tighten around social media at the political level in France. A bill introduced by the Horizons group aims to establish a digital majority at age 15 on social networks and allow parents to delete their children’s accounts when they reach civil majority. For now, the text still needs to be validated in the Senate.

A law on the numerical majority voted in the National Assembly

The bill we are talking about aims to building a digital majority and fighting hate online “. It was presented by the Corsican deputy Laurent Marcangeli, president of Horizons and a related group (Horizons is the political party created by Edouard Philippe) and member of the culture and education commission. Of the 84 voting deputies, only two of them voted against of the proposal. The voters were mainly deputies from Horizons (25), Renaissance (18) and Rassemblement Nationale (15). A quasi-unanimity certainly, but one that does not represent a ” unanimity Claimed by Jean-Noël Barrot, Minister Delegate in charge of the digital transition.

Unanimously, the National Assembly acts to better protect our children on social media. The platforms will be required to verify the age of their users and obtain parental consent when they are under 15 years of age.

— Jean-Noël Barrot (@jnbarrot) March 2, 2023

A few days ago, Laurent Marcangeli saw his platform published to promote his project on the sunday newspaper. In it he explained that “ The dangers weigh on the physical and mental health of the youngest: many Anglo-Saxon studies tend to show that the intensive use of social networks from a very young age favors the development of psychosocial disorders, such as mood, anxiety or even depression , the consequences of which can be dramatic. »

As reported by the National Assembly on Twitter (via bfm tv), this proposal was approved at first reading in the commission of which Deputy Marcangeli is a member, as part of a Horizontes parliamentary niche. A law that points directly to social networks, in the sense that the Digital Markets Law (DMA), a European regulation that comes into force on May 2. He defines a social network as a platform that allows end users to connect and communicate with each other, share content and discover other users and other content, on various devices and, in particular, through online conversations (chats), publications (posts), videos and recommendations “. For Laurent Marcangeli, it is also an opportunity to include this definition of AMD in national legislation.

✅ Building a digital majority and fighting hate online | The National Assembly approved the bill in first reading.
Learn more ➡️ https://t.co/MICssB4ven#DirectAN pic.twitter.com/COUq14mDTM

– National Assembly (@AssembleeNat) March 2, 2023

By this, it means that this law targets Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, etc. But, on closer inspection, we realize that Discord could be affected, just like online forums. The latter, although they are far from being widely used by adolescents, are all the same.

Regarding users, this law brings two important changes:

  • « Establishment of a numerical majority set at 15 years for registration in social networking services »
  • « obligation of all social networking services operating in France to verify the age of users and, in the case of minors, the reality of the consent of the parental authority »
  • « possibility, for the parents of a minor child, to request the deletion of their child’s account up to a civil majority »

As described The worldnumerical majority refers to the age from which a person is considered to control their image and personal data, and is capable of giving their consent, without parental authorization, for the latter to be used by online services. In other words, minors under the age of fifteen who wish to register on a social network must therefore have the approval of their parents.

As for the deletion of a minor’s account, it will be possible for any parent, regardless of whether they are over fifteen years of age. On the choice of fifteen years, Laurent Marcangeli explained to the newspaper that this age ” corresponds to the age already mentioned in the LOPD. It also coincides in France with the sexual age of majority and also with the transition from university to high school. “. Until now, most social networks require the age of thirteen to be able to register. The problem today is that you only have to lie about your age to be able to register. It is at this point that the law presented by Horizons changes the situation : social networks will have to verify the age of new registrants.

Agnès Pannier-Runacher and Jean-Noël Barrot // Source: Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty

The newspaper also interviewed Divina Frau-Megs, a media sociologist and professor of information and communication sciences at the Sorbonne-Nouvelle University. According to her, the numerical majority is a limit that “ allows to start a dialogue between the minor and his parents, to indicate that he is taking a risk. It has an educational function. When there is nothing, everything is allowed. “. On the other hand, he states that ” The text also raises the issue of the fight against online hate, which does not fall under the same phenomena and the same elements of law, can generate confusion and leave the opportunity for platforms to legally take advantage of doubt. »

How will social networks have to apply this digital majority?

As established by this law on the numerical majority, it will be up to Arcom to certify” technical solutions to verify the age and consent of the holder of parental authority implemented by social networks (after consulting the CNIL). As noted The worldthe bill’s draftsman justifies this vagueness in a previously submitted amendment as follows: “ The lack of consensus at this stage on the best technical solution for age verification must be taken into account by the legislator, who cannot enshrine a particular verification system in law, due to the rapid development of available technologies. »

Just like verifying the age of Internet users who want to consult pornographic content, which poses technical problems when registering on a social network, especially in the field of data protection. If for pornographic sites the State imagines a majority certification application, this device has not yet been officially presented. In this case, it is necessary to be able to apply the law while respecting the GDPR: in addition, the personal data of minors is even more sensitive. The GDPR also established a numerical majority, but ” left the possibility to each country to set the age of this majority between 13 and 16 years “, as the journalist Pauline Croquet reminds us.

Source: Photo by Igor Starkov on Unsplash

You need to be able to reliably verify the age of an internet user, but also make sure that at least one guardian/parent gives consent. At the moment, the law does not offer any technical solutions: it will be up to Arcom to decide on the solutions. If the law is indeed enforced, minors will no longer be able to simply lie about their age by signing up to a social network, or even recreating a hidden account if the first one was deleted by their parents.

From a broader point of view, this would also mean systematically verifying the age of users, regardless of whether they are of legal age or not. Another control to carry out: parental authority. It is necessary to prove that an adult is the parent/guardian of a minor so that the minor can register. It can be difficult for social networks to request the identity documents of the two people in question, or even give their real identity.

What penalties for social networks that do not play the game?

In the event that Arcom finds that a social network ” has not implemented a certified technical solution To verify the age of the users and the consent of the parents/guardians for the registration of a minor, the Authority may notify the corresponding platform.

A young spectator in front of the television.
A boy watching television // Source:stock

The latter will then have fifteen days to submit comments “. After this period, Arcom may to arrest the president of the judicial court of Paris That could have financial consequences. The approved law establishes that: IThe fact that any social network service does not comply with its obligations to verify the age and consent of the holder or holders of parental authority will be penalized with a fine not exceeding 1% of its worldwide turnover for the previous year. »

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