FRANCE

French digital rights bill published in ‘open democracy’ first

AFP archive picture | It is the first time in French history that a proposed law has been opened to public consultation on this scale

A proposed law on the Internet and digital rights in France has been opened to public consultation before it is debated in parliament in an “unprecedented” exercise in “open democracy”.

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The text of the “Digital Republic” bill was published online on Saturday and is open to suggestions for amendments by French citizens until October 17.

It can be found on the “Digital Republic” web page, and is even available in English.

“We are opening a new page in the history of our democracy,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said at a press conference as the consultation was launched. “This is the first time in France, or indeed in any European country, that a proposed law has been opened to citizens in this way.”

“And it won’t be the last time,” he said, adding that the move was an attempt to redress a “growing distrust of politics”.

Participants will be able to give their opinions and make suggestions for changes to the text of the bill.

Suggestions that get the highest number of public votes will be guaranteed an official response before the bill is presented to parliament.

Freedoms and fairness

In its original and unedited form, the text of the bill pushes heavily towards online freedoms as well as improving the transparency of government.

An “Open Data” policy would make official documents and public sector research available online, while a “Net Neutrality” clause would prevent Internet services such as Netflix or YouTube from paying for faster connection speeds at the expense of everyone else.

For personal freedoms, the law would allow citizens the right to recover emails, files and other data such as pictures stored on “cloud” services.

The bill would speed up the process by which minors have the “right to be forgotten” by web services to a maximum of 15 days from the date a request is made, while providing for the right to a “digital death” by which citizens can determine how much of their personal data can be used after they die.

The bill also has provisions to improve disabled access to public websites, and guarantees of a minimum Internet connection for poorer households that are unable to pay their monthly bills.

A full breakdown of the citizen contributions to the bill will be published at the end of October, and an edited version of the text will be presented to the National Assembly for debate at the beginning of 2016.

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