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France leads call for a better and safer internet

France was one of the first countries to sign up to World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee’s Contract for the Web pledge to protect online freedoms and rights.

It comes as President Macron told big web companies to expect more regulation from France and Europe, saying he wants a middle way between a self-regulated, ungoverned “Cali­for­nian” internet and a highly controlled “Chinese” one.

Remembering the optimism of the early days of the web, Mr Berners-Lee proposed principles to be agreed by governments, firms and individuals to rebuild trust and end “online abuse, prejudice, bias, polarisation and fake news”. He said: “The web’s undeniable benefits seem to come with far too many unacceptable risks: to our privacy, our democracy, even our mental health.”

France’s Digital Minister Mounir Mahjoubi was one of the first signatories to the contract, which Mr Berners-Lee likened to a Magna Carta “for a free, open and safe web that benefits everyone”.

Google and Facebook also signed, along with Internet Sans Frontières (a French network defending freedom of expression) and individuals such as Richard Bran­son and Gordon Brown.

Meanwhile, Mr Macron, speaking at the Internet Governance Forum at Unesco’s Paris headquarters, said there will be new rules on  matters such as fair taxation, copyright, protection of private life, the “right to good quality information” and online security. He hoped to address the issues in cooperation with the big firms, on a voluntary basis and not just with laws.

The state will work with Facebook to examine how to moderate hateful content on its site.

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