France approves law requiring parental consent for minors on social media

France on Thursday approved a new law requiring social media platforms such as TikTok to verify the age of users and obtain parental consent for users under 15 to protect children online.

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The legislation is part of a series of recent government initiatives aimed at reducing children’s screen time and protecting them from cyberbullying and other crimes.

Digital Transformation Minister Jean-Noel Barrot told lawmakers the “landmark” law would be implemented “as soon as possible”.

But the exact date the age verification bill will come into force remains unclear after it was approved by the Senate on Thursday, as no date has been set and the European Commission has yet to check whether the bill complies with EU law.

Sites will then have one year to comply with the policy for new subscribers and another two years to apply the requirements to existing users.

Lawmakers’ concerns include pornography, cyberstalking, unattainable beauty standards and the attention-grabbing, addictive nature of platforms, which pose particular risks to young people.

Existing regulations mainly focus on personal data collection and have failed to impact children’s use of social media.

In theory, these sites are not open to persons under the age of 13 in France.

But according to the French National Council for Technology and Liberty (CNIL), some users sign up as early as 8 years old, and more than half of 10- to 14-year-olds use social media sites such as Snapchat and Instagram.

The new law will explicitly require websites to obtain the approval of the parents or guardians of users under the age of 15 when using technological solutions that comply with guidelines set by the French regulator Arcom.

Social media companies that break the law face fines of up to 1% of their global revenue.

The law also allows parents to request the suspension of the accounts of children under the age of 15 and requires websites to provide tools to limit the time children spend on the platform.

On Wednesday, Laurent Marcangeli, the lawmaker who spearheaded the bill, acknowledged that addressing concerns about children’s online safety isn’t enough.

He further called for “advances in online age verification technology and significant investment in digital education for parents, children and teachers.”

French lawmakers recently proposed another bill on child likeness rights to prevent parents from abusing their children’s image rights on social networks, which is still yet to be drafted into law.

In March, parliament also proposed measures to prevent children from overexposure to screens.

Next week, Minister Barrow is expected to defend a bill to “protect and regulate the digital space”, which includes measures requiring porn sites to check that their users are of legal age.

(AFP)

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