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France Leads Global Efforts To Protect Young YouTubers

A new French bill is intended to protect the privacy and economic interests of minors who are going viral on YouTube and other social platforms.

Neo & Swann, two young popular French YouTubers
Neo & Swann, two young popular French YouTubers
Pauline Croquet

PARIS — Their names are Kalys, Athena, Néo, Swan, Fantin, Amantine or Maellia. These are the young French stars with their own YouTube channels — and hundreds of thousands of views and subscribers.

Their online video activity — which may seem trivial, but can be very lucrative — of unwrapping toys and sharing everyday family moments, will soon be regulated by labor law. France's National Assembly has given preliminary approval to a bill focused on the commercial exploitation of the image of children under age 16 on the Internet.

Assembly member Bruno Studer, who represents the Bas-Rhin department and chairs the Committee on Cultural Affairs and Education, first brought the bill, which would put France at the forefront of this issue internationally.

The bill aims to fill a legal void concerning the "new form of entrepreneurship and artistic expression" that has emerged over the past decade, Studer explained to Le Monde. It is foremost a question of extending existing legislation for children in the entertainment industry with income-generating activities like YouTubers, e-sports players (competitive gaming), or social media influencers.

The adopted proposal goes even further by regulating the "gray zone" of family vlogs ("video blogs'), which don't really fall under traditional working relationships but go beyond a simple leisure activity. Article three of the law proposes that the production of online videos that include minors should be taken into account as soon as they exceed a certain time limit, volume of content or "when the dissemination of this content produces direct or indirect income for the benefit of the person responsible for the realization, production or dissemination of it." The limits and thresholds would be set in place later.

There's also a "right to be forgotten" for children depicted on online platforms.

Content creators who hire children under the age of 16, parents or not, will also need to obtain authorization from a public commission. Like with child actors and models, shooting schedules will have time limits and the remuneration for the content (by online advertising or product placement, for example) will be largely blocked by the public bank handling official deposits, until the child is of legal age.

Delegates also introduced a "right to be forgotten" for children depicted on online platforms. Even before they reach legal age, they will be able to contact the video sharing service, which will be "required to stop distributing the image of the person asking as soon as possible if they were a minor on the date of the content's dissemination."

Khalys and Athena, two young popular YouTubers — Studiobubbletea via Instagram

Platforms will also be required to inform users of the law, the rights of the children and psychological risks, to promote a reporting system in liaison with French child protection associations.

"We must hold the companies that participate in the dissemination of these images and derive income from them responsible," a spokesperson said. "They must join in the effort, like the parents." The delegation was in touch with YouTube, owned by Google, over the past few months, and also had "received favorable feedback from Snapchat." Other social networks have refused to join the discussions.

The issue of exposure to violence and pornography will also need to be addressed.

One positive fruit of the effort came in January when the French Federation of Childcare and Toy Industries (FJP) signed an ethical charter with Hasbro, a behemoth in the sector, concerning the use of child influencers in its promotional campaigns.

"This is only a small dimension in the online life of minors," Studer conceded. "The issue of exposure to violence and pornography will also need to be addressed. Nevertheless, this proposal makes it possible to guarantee the best interests of children in a concrete way, to not only protect their privacy and integrity, but also as a reminder that child labor is prohibited without exception."

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How Vulnerable Are The Russians In Crimea?

Ukraine has stepped up attacks on the occupied Crimean peninsula, and Russia is doing all within its power to deny how vulnerable it has become.

Photograph of the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters with smoke rising above it after a Ukrainian missile strike.

September 22, 2023, Sevastopol, Crimea, Russia: Smoke rises over the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters after a Ukrainian missile strike.

Kyrylo Danylchenko

This article was updated Sept. 26, 2023 at 6:00 p.m.

Russian authorities are making a concerted effort to downplay and even deny the recent missile strikes in Russia-occupied Crimea.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Media coverage in Russia of these events has been intentionally subdued, with top military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov offering no response to an attack on Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, or the alleged downing last week of Russian Su-24 aircraft by Ukrainian Air Defense.

The response from this and other strikes on the Crimean peninsula and surrounding waters of the Black Sea has alternated between complete silence and propagating falsehoods. One notable example of the latter was the claim that the Russian headquarters building of the Black Sea fleet that was hit Friday was empty and that the multiple explosions were mere routine training exercises.

Ukraine claimed on Monday that the attack killed Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. "After the strike on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, 34 officers died, including the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Another 105 occupiers were wounded. The headquarters building cannot be restored," the Ukrainian special forces said via Telegram.

But Sokolov was seen on state television on Tuesday, just one day after Ukraine claimed he'd been killed. The Russian Defense Ministry released footage of the admiral partaking in a video conference with top admirals and chiefs, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, though there was no verification of the date of the event.

Moscow has been similarly obtuse following other reports of missiles strikes this month on Crimea. Russian authorities have declared that all missiles have been intercepted by a submarine and a structure called "VDK Minsk", which itself was severely damaged following a Ukrainian airstrike on Sept. 13. The Russians likewise dismissed reports of a fire at the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, attributing it to a mundane explosion caused by swamp gas.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refrained from commenting on the military situation in Crimea and elsewhere, continuing to repeat that everything is “proceeding as planned.”

Why is Crimea such a touchy topic? And why is it proving to be so hard to defend?

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