French Constitutional Council strikes down Avia Law

The French Law on Countering Online Hatred (‘Avia Law’) passed last month (and aiming to combat hate speech online by requiring online platforms to remove flagged ‘obviously unlawful’ hateful content within 24 hours, flagged terrorist propaganda and child sexual abuse material within 1 hour, or face fines) has been declared unconstitutional in its key provisions by the French Constitutional Council. 

In its Decision n° 2020-801 DC, the French Constitutional Council stated ‘[The legislation] undermines freedom of expression and communication in a way that is not necessary, adapted nor proportionate’, and ruled that the text is not compatible with the French constitution.

According to Politico Europe, this decision of the French Constitutional Council could also ‘have an impact on the [EU] Digital Services Act itself, as it poses clear limits on what France can lobby for at an EU level while providing guidance on what is acceptable — and what is not — in terms of content moderation’.

Member of European Parliament Tiemo Wölken, who drafted an initiative report on EU’s Digital Services Act in the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee, tweeted that the decision ‘should be a warning for everyone pushing for EU legislation on the [Digital Services Act] heading in the same dangerous direction’.