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French Law no. 2023-566 of July 7th, 2023 implementing a digital age of majority and preventing online hate

In order to prevent the overexposure of children online, a French Law n°2023-566 was adopted on July 7th, 2023, and implements a digital age of majority and reinforces the obligations of social networks, especially regarding registration of minors.

1) The introduction of a digital age of majority in France

This new French law provides a definition of social networks. This definition is consistent with the definition contained in European legislation within the Digital Market Act (DMA) and states that “online social network service means any platform enabling users to connect and communicate with each other, share content and discover other users and other content, across multiple devices, in particular through online conversations, publications, videos and recommendations”.

As a key element of the July 7th, 2023 French law, a digital age of majority is set at the age of 15 for registration and use of said networks. This digital age of majority means that online social network service providers operating in France must refuse to allow children under the age of 15 to register for their services, unless expressly authorized to do so by one of the parents. This authorization is also required for accounts already created. At the time of registration, minors under the age of 15 and their parents must be informed of the risks associated with digital activities and the means of prevention. Minors must also receive clear and appropriate information on the conditions of use of their data and their rights under the French Data Protection Act.

In addition to this new digital age of majority, social networks must implement several measures under this French law:

  • firstly, when a minor under the age of 15 registers, providers of online social networking services must activate a device enabling them to monitor the time spent using their service, and must regularly inform users of this time by any means of notifications;
  • in addition, to verify the age of users, or the authorization of one of the parents in the case of minors under 15, social networks must implement a technical solution that complies with a framework to be established by the French Autorité de Régulation de la Communication Audiovisuelle et Numérique (Arcom), after consultation with the French Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL). A decree is expected to implement the terms of this obligation.

In the event of non-compliance with the obligation to implement a technical age-control solution, the social network may be fined up to 1% of its worldwide sales.

However, this age verification system raises a practical problem, in that a number of technical solutions were mentioned during the French parliamentary discussions, but none of the existing age verification solutions can currently be applied in a satisfactory manner.

2) Introduction of new obligations for social networks

In order to prevent online harassment, the law also imposes educational obligations on social networks:

  • by making anti-harassment prevention messages visible to users, and pointing users to support structures for handling online harassment ;
  • by enabling all users to report more illegal contents so that they can be removed. Indeed, the law of July 7th, 2023 broadened the scope of illicit content that social networks are required to report (amending article 6 I 7 of the French law no. 2004-575 of June 21, 2004) to include marital or moral harassment, blackmail (e.g. cam blackmail, sextortion), invasion of privacy (e.g. cyber-outing) and infringement of personal portrayal (e.g. deepfake).

It should be noted that the implementation of this law in France is not immediate, as the Government must notify the European Commission to ensure that the legislation complies with European Union law.