PARIS – France may soon force smartphone and computer makers like Apple, Samsung and Huawei to give parents the ability to restrict their children’s internet access.
A bill introduced by MPs earlier this month received backing from a powerful backer on Thursday: French President Emmanuel Macron.
“Faced with the dangers of technology, we are going to change the law so that parental controls are installed by default on all smartphones, computers and tablets used by our children”, Macron tweeted.
Child safety online is becoming a hot topic in Europe, encompassing key digital aspects such as privacy protection, tackling cyberbullying, proliferation of child pornography, age verification on websites and adult social media and mental wellness.
The UK introduced the Children’s Internet Code in September, which requires Facebook, TikTok and Twitch to improve privacy protection for children and stop targeting them with ads and tracking their location. This week, the UK data protection authority announced an investigation into tech companies, including Google and Apple, for “endangering children” and violating the children’s code.
In France, Emmanuel Macron and First Lady Brigitte Macron have made the safety of children online a top priority. In 2019, the French president supported automatic parental controls for internet service providers.
At last week’s Paris Peace Forum, Macron launched an international initiative on protecting children’s rights online, backed by countries like Italy, Bulgaria and Estonia and backed by giants of technology such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Microsoft.
And Thursday, on the occasion of the French national holiday against school bullying, the president announcement that a new app will be launched in February for victims and witnesses to send screenshots of cyberbullying – a day after Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer gathered platforms like Google, Facebook and Twitter to discuss age verification and online harassment.
Focus on device manufacturers
The Macron-backed bill on Thursday was drafted by Bruno Studer, a member of the majority La RÃ©publique en Marche party who also initiated new rules for child YouTube stars last year, and focuses on makers of YouTube. devices.
As France’s 2022 presidential election approached, there was initial uncertainty as to whether the text would see the light of day before the National Assembly ceased its legislative work at the end of February. Macron’s support himself will likely speed up the process, as parliament’s agenda is primarily determined by the government.
Children as young as seven are too often confronted with harmful and violent content online, and current parental control systems are often too complicated to set up, Studer wrote in the preamble to the text.
The legislation will require manufacturers of products such as laptops, tablets, smartphones and game consoles to preinstall a parental control system and ask users if they want to activate it when they first turn on the device. the device. The text also seeks to harmonize the parental control systems already offered by Internet service providers. The National Frequency Agency will be responsible for enforcing the new rules.
While devices like Apple’s iPhone already offer parental control options, they could be forced to change their settings once the government decides on the exact requirements.
“The minimum functionalities and technical characteristics with which the device […] must comply, is set by [government] decree â, we read in the text.
The text will probably have to be reported to the European Commission for Brussels in order to assess its compliance with internal market rules.
France has already adopted rules to force pornographic sites to install age verification systems to prevent minors from accessing adult content. The broadcasting regulator issued notices in March to eight adult websites – including Pornhub, one of the largest in the world – asking them to install age verification systems or be shut down. The regulator is expected to decide the outcome shortly, a spokesperson said last week.