Draft French Law Aims to Crack down on Minors’ Use of Social Networks such as Facebook

Despite the fact that many prominent social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have a stated minimum user age of 13, underage individuals continue to create accounts and make frequent use of these services. While this may not be inherently damaging in itself, the fact that these platforms are public and created with an older user-base in mind means that pre-teens who make use of these sites do risk exposure to inappropriate content or, as unpleasant as the thought may be, predatory behaviour.

Well it seems that the French Government have had enough of this apparent looming threat to the younger generations, as a new draft law presented last week would make it a legal requirement for children under the age of 16 to acquire parental permission to open an account on Facebook, or indeed any other social network.

The legislation forms part of a larger bill which, according to The Telegraph,  seeks to adapt data privacy regulations and improve access to the information internet companies gather, store, and in many cases sell to other firms about people's online activity.

“Joining Facebook will involve parental authorisation for minors aged under 16,” Nicole Belloubet, the French Justice Minister, stated rather plainly.

In practice, the draft legislation would amount to a simple tick box which confirms that permission had been obtained from the child’s parent or legal guardian. Ticking this box would be considered a declaration governed by law, but questions remain as to how this would be enforced.

A tick-box system is very easy for any underage users to get around, as they are already doing largely the same thing under the current system. As such I can’t really see the law having much of an effect as pre-teens would simply continue to lie about their age in order to gain access to the platform, and it does seem rather unreasonable to prosecute the parents, particularly if they have no knowledge of their child doing such a thing. The legislation would also have no tangible effect on the hordes of underage accounts already active on the platform; honestly, I can see more problems than inviting prospects with this legislation.

As stated however this is simply a draft, and must be passed by parliament before it can become law. It will be interesting to see if that comes to fruition, but a few gaps are already appearing in the drafted bill that will need ironing out first, at least as far as I can tell.

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