LES ECHOS

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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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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