January 26, 2022

Against disinformation, what the plan presented to Macron provides

INFORMATION – The Bronner commission on disinformation and conspiracy submitted its report this Tuesday, January 11 to President Emmanuel Macron. Chaired by sociologist Gérald Bronner, the committee made up of 14 academics or competent personalities was responsible for taking stock of the impact of the explosion of information made possible by digital technology, and on any measures to be taken to prevent it it does not promote disinformation, conspiracy and, ultimately, the weakening of democracy.

Among its 30 recommendations, here are the five main proposals:

  • Better master algorithmic logic

To fight against “popularity bias”, which leads algorithms to favor the content provided by the most followed accounts, it is necessary “to allow users to better represent the state of the network and the real prevalence of opinions by deactivating by lack of popularity metrics and algorithmic editorialization ”.

The report also suggests “encouraging” increased monitoring of the biggest influencers by platforms “in order to hold them accountable”.

It is also necessary to ensure that “on certain firmly established subjects, the algorithmic classification does not mislead the public on the real state of knowledge” and that the visibility given to the contents reflects the existing scientific “consensus”.

  • No advertising funding for infox

The report suggests promoting “responsible advertising investment”, to prevent online advertising from funding disinformation or conspiratorial sites. Actors like NewsGuard, Global Disinformation Index or Storyzy have precisely developed lists listing the sites to be avoided.

Generalist press sites should “ban sponsored links from their advertising spaces that refer to sites with disinformation click-traps” and no longer use “advertising companies associating them with such sponsored links”.

  • Better coordination in the face of foreign digital interference

The report proposes to set up a cooperation mechanism between platforms, institutions and academic communities to react quickly to detected operations. It also recommends creating an interministerial digital governance mechanism, and a crisis management mechanism at European level.

  • Engage civil liability in the event of “false news”

The committee proposes to keep in its current wording article 27 of the law of July 29, 1881 on the freedom of the press which criminalizes the public dissemination of “false news” on digital communications networks and platforms.

On the other hand, it proposes a new article of law which would make it possible to engage the civil responsibility of a Net surfer who disseminates in bad faith a false detrimental news, by taking into account in particular “the level of audience and digital popularity of its author ”.

The Bronner commission also recommends that Arcom (the former CSA) can be contacted “by any person who has encountered difficulty in obtaining the intervention and cooperation of a platform in order to prevent or stop the massive distribution of a content likely to convey false news that could disturb public order ”.

She also recommends that the platforms open up access to their data to researchers – a provision that is currently being discussed in Brussels, in the draft European text on digital services (DSA).

  • Develop media and information literacy

The commission proposes to make the development of critical thinking and education in the media and information “a great national cause”, associating the National Education and all the training and education systems (educational projects of territories, continuing education, etc.).

It recommends systematizing training for students from primary school until after secondary school and for teachers in initial and continuing training. In particular, it suggests “establishing a map of the cognitive difficulties most frequently encountered in pupils”. Finally, according to her, it is appropriate to seize the national pilot ethics committee on the issue of “metavers”, these virtual worlds juxtaposed with the physical world promoted by digital giants, such as Facebook.

“The growing immersion of users in digital worlds where the distinction between the real and the virtual is gradually being erased can lead to ethical risks”, underlines the commission.

Emmanuel Macron supports the Bronner commission’s proposals

In his greetings to the press, Emmanuel Macron took up this idea of ​​“training our children more” and citizens in this “critical spirit” or “method”. Only “the verification of sources”, “the crossing of these”, “the contradiction of the arguments, the enlightened debate” can “build a path which leads to a truth, perhaps moreover provisional, but a truth” , he said.

The President of the Republic has also taken up the idea of ​​making data on the use of social networks accessible to researchers, so that the “virality” of false information can be studied with precision, for example.

“Our research must be able to have access to the data” of the platforms, “otherwise we are all suppliers or users of mechanisms more powerful than us and who manipulate us,” he said.

At the end of September, the establishment of the commission had been briefly disrupted by a controversy over one of its members, the professor of medicine Guy Vallancien, implicated in particular by the pulmonologist and whistleblower Irène Frachon for having “denied the seriousness ”of the Mediator drug case. Guy Vallancien had very quickly announced that he was giving up participating in the work.

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