The Constitutional Council censors the offense of “online contempt” created by law to secure the digital space

This new offense provided for the sanctioning of any content which “undermines the dignity of a person or presents an insulting, degrading or humiliating nature towards them”.


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On May 17, 2024, the Constitutional Council censored the offense of"online outrage" created by law to secure the digital space (illustrative photo).  (ROMAIN LONGIERAS / HANS LUCAS / AFP)

A disproportionate attack. The Constitutional Council censored in substance, Friday May 17, one of the most controversial measures of the bill to secure the internet (SREN), that creating an offense of online contempt which can be punished with a fixed fine.

The text definitively adopted on April 10 provided for the creation of an offense of online contempt, in order to sanction any content that “violates the dignity of a person or presents an insulting, degrading or humiliating character towards them” Or “creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive situation against him” in the digital space. But the Constitutional Council considered that this offense carried a “impairment of the exercise of freedom of expression and communication which is not necessary, appropriate and proportionate”.

To justify its decision, the Constitutional Council recalls in particular that “the legislation already includes several criminal offenses making it possible to punish acts likely to constitute such abuse”. Furthermore, the wording of the article would depend on the characterization of the offense “the assessment of subjective elements relating to the victim’s perception” – and does so “weigh an uncertainty” on the legal nature or not of the targeted behaviors, justify the Sages.

The Constitutional Council, which had been contacted by more than 120 deputies from the National Rally and La France insoumise groups, also censored four articles considered to be “legislative riders”, that is to say without direct or indirect relationship with the initial text. Among these, the article providing that the State sets itself the objective that “100% of French people can have access to a free digital identity” by January 1, 2027.

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