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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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Society

How India’s Women Are Fighting Air Pollution — And The Patriarchy

India is one of the world's worst countries for air pollution, with women more likely to be affected by the problem than men. Now, experts and activists are fighting to reframe pollution as a gendered health crisis.

A woman walking through dense fog in New Delhi

*Saumya Kalia

MUMBAI In New Delhi, a city that has topped urban air-pollution charts in recent years, Shakuntala describes a discomfort that has become too familiar. Surrounded by bricks and austere buildings, she tells an interviewer: "The eyes burn and it becomes difficult to breathe". She is referring to the noxious fumes she routinely breathes as a construction worker.

Like Shakuntala, women’s experiences of polluted air fill every corner of their lives – inside homes, in parks and markets, on the way to work. Ambient air in most districts in India has never been worse than it is today. As many as 1.67 million people in the country die prematurely due to polluted air. It is India’s second largest health risk after malnutrition.

This risk of exposure to air pollution is compounded for women. Their experiences of toxic air are more frequent and often more hazardous. Yet “policies around air quality have not yet adequately taken into account gender or other factors that might influence people’s health,” Pallavi Pant, a senior scientist at the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit in the U.S., told The Wire Science.

“It’s unacceptable that the biggest burden [rests on] those who can least bear it,” Sherebanu Frosh, an activist, added. People like her are building a unique resistance within India.

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