Macron and May threaten action against internet providers

French and British leaders meet in Paris and vow to curtail social media use by jihadists

French president Emmanuel Macron and British prime minister Theresa May have threatened to make internet corporations legally liable for the use of social media by jihadists.

The leaders spoke in the garden of the Élysée Palace following a working diner, before departing for the France-England football match at the Stade de France, where they paid respect to the 30 people who died in the Manchester and London attacks.

Four days after the November 13th, 2015, attacks in Paris, Wembley Stadium paid a similar tribute to the 130 dead.

Three French citizens were among the eight killed in London. A British citizen, Nick Alexander, was killed in the Bataclan atrocity.


Mr Macron said the purpose of the “action plan” drawn up by British and French officials was “to strengthen the commitments and obligations of internet operators to delete any content promoting hatred and terrorism”.

At present, Mr Macron continued, it takes 48 hours to remove content, when most of the harm is done within the first two hours. He said better access by police and justice officials to encrypted content was also necessary.

‘Poisonous propaganda’

Ms May said her government was already working with social media companies “to halt the spread of extremist material and poisonous propaganda that is warping young minds . . . Crucially, our campaign will include exploring creating a legal liability for tech companies if they fail to take the necessary action to remove unacceptable content.”

Ms May quashed reports that the beginning of Brexit negotiations, scheduled for next Monday, June 19th, might be postponed following her June 8th election debacle. "I confirmed to President Macron that the timetable for negotiations remains on course and will begin next week," she said.

The two-year countdown to Brexit began on March 29th, when Ms May formally notified the EU of her intention to withdraw from the union.

The French have grown impatient with the British failure to start negotiations. “I would like the negotiations, and then the discussion on relations with the UK, to be launched as soon as possible, and to take place as quickly as possible,” Mr Macron said.

He believes Brexit is an opportunity to relaunch the EU. Some French officials argue that the British departure will actually strengthen the union.

Mr Macron was asked if he agreed with the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, that the door was still open to Britain remaining in the EU. He said, “No negotiation of Brexit has been finalised. The decision was made by the people of the UK . . . As far as the member countries are concerned, as long as the exit has not been completed, then there is a possibility . . . But we must be clear and organised. Once it’s begun, we have to be collectively conscious that it is more difficult to go backward.”

Endangering peace

The former Tory prime minister John Major has accused Ms May of endangering peace in Northern Ireland by negotiating a coalition deal with the Democratic Unionist Party.

“We as a government remain absolutely steadfast in our commitment to the Belfast Agreement,” Ms May responded. “We continue to work with all parties in Northern Ireland, and the government of the Republic of Ireland, in ensuring that we can continue to put in place those measures necessary to fulfil those agreements.”

Ms May said she was “intent on seeing the Northern Ireland executive reformed and a devolved administration continuing in Northern Ireland”. Her “productive talks” with the DUP were “to ensure we have stability of government in the national interest”.

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe is an Irish Times contributor