On Thursday, France passed a new legislation that mandates social media platforms such as TikTok to verify the ages of users and acquire parental consent for individuals under the age of 15. The objective behind this law is to safeguard children’s online well-being.
The government has been taking a series of recent actions to decrease children’s screen time and safeguard them from cyberbullying and other crimes, and this legislation is part of those efforts.
Lawmakers were informed by Digital Transition Minister Jean-Noel Barrot that the “landmark” law would be implemented at the earliest opportunity.
The specific date for the age verification bill to take effect is still uncertain after receiving Senate approval on Thursday. No specific date has been determined, and the European Commission has not yet verified its compliance with EU law.
Websites will be given a year to adhere to the policy for new subscribers, followed by an additional two years to implement the requirements for existing users.
Legislators expressed various concerns, including but not limited to pornography, cyberstalking, unrealistic beauty ideals, and the captivating and addictive nature of these platforms, which can be especially harmful for young people.
The current regulations that primarily address the collection of personal data have proven ineffective in addressing children’s use of social media.
In France, individuals under the age of 13 are generally not allowed access to websites.
According to the French National Commission for Technology and Freedoms (CNIL), a significant number of users as young as eight years old have registered on social media platforms. It has been observed that over half of children between the ages of 10 and 14 are active on popular sites such as Snapchat and Instagram.
The French Arcom regulator has set guidelines for technical solutions that websites must follow in order to obtain approval from a user’s parent or guardian if they are under 15. This requirement is explicitly stated in the new law.
Companies that violate the law will be subject to a penalty of up to 1 percent of their worldwide earnings.
Parents will also have the option to ask for the temporary deactivation of their children’s accounts who are under 15 years old. Additionally, websites will be obligated to provide features that enable parents to set restrictions on the amount of time their children can spend on the platform.
On Wednesday, Laurent Marcangeli, the lawmaker who led the act, acknowledged that addressing concerns about children’s safety online will require more than what has been done so far.
He also emphasized the need for “improvements in online age verification technology and significant investments in digital education for parents, children, and teachers.”
A new bill has been proposed by French lawmakers to protect children’s image rights from parental abuse on social networks. The bill is currently in the process of being drafted into law.
In parliament, new measures were introduced in March to address the issue of excessive screen time for children.
Minister Barrot is anticipated to present a bill next week, aiming to “safeguard and regulate the digital realm.” The proposed legislation includes provisions that would mandate age verification on pornographic websites to ensure users are of legal age.