Ophélie Artaud 6:00 p.m., March 01, 2023
This Thursday, a bill aimed at "establishing a numerical majority at the age of 15 and combating online hatred" will be discussed in the National Assembly.
This aims to reaffirm the age of digital majority at 15 and to prevent young people below this age from registering on social networks without the consent of their parents.
But is it possible?
Should access to social networks be considerably limited to young people under 15?
This Thursday, a bill tabled by the deputy of the Horizons group Laurent Marcangeli will be discussed in the National Assembly.
This aims to "establish a numerical majority at the age of 15 and to fight against online hatred".
Taking into account the risks arising from the daily use of social networks by young people, particularly those related to mental health, as well as the issue of cyberbullying, the MP considers that "it is the duty of the legislator to intervene to set an age, the necessary threshold of maturity from which a minor is able to register alone, with informed consent, on a social platform.
“Below this threshold, the platforms will have to collect proof of the authorization of at least one of the holders of parental authority”, can we read in the bill.
The numerical majority at 15, a concept that already exists but which is not applied
But is it really possible to enforce this numerical majority at the age of 15, in particular by the platforms?
Because the numerical majority already exists.
Indeed, 15 years corresponds to the threshold set in 2018 by the Data Protection Act and to the age from which a person is the owner of his personal data and his image and can accept, without prior parental consent, that the sites and platforms have access to it.
In other words, theoretically, since 2018, a minor under the age of 15 should not be able to register on a social network without the consent of their parents.
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For Justine Atlan, general manager of the E-Enfance association and of the national number 3018 for victims of digital violence*, "this bill would make it possible to drive the nail of the 2018 law a little further by extending it to something other than the only collection of personal data. The objective is to reaffirm that before the age of 15, a minor should not be able to do a certain number of things on his own on social networks. This is rather in line with enforcing a law which already exists but which in reality is not.
A law that is not respected, in particular because the platforms do not verify the age of users at the time of registration.
All you have to do is enter an age above 13 – the age from which social networks allow young people to register without parental consent – to be able to access it.
"The problem with the 2018 law is that the platforms interpreted the text and saw a legal vacuum that gave them the impression that they had a choice" whether or not to control the age of users.
“It is clear that the law is not sufficient and that it may be necessary to go a little further. This would strengthen the responsibility of the platforms”, suggests Justine Atlan.
How to verify the age of users on social networks?
For the state, the difficulty is how to ensure that the platforms verify the age of all users without compromising personal data.
"This is a problem that the National Commission for Computing and Liberties (Cnil) has been considering for many years because directly asking platforms to verify the age of users, and therefore to have access to sensitive personal data, is not desirable. The only solution recommended by the Cnil is to go through a trusted third-party body", explains Sophie Jehel, lecturer in Information and Communication Sciences at Paris 8 and author of L'
adolescence at the heart of the digital economy
(2022, Ina edition).
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The same question now arises to know how to prevent minors from accessing pornographic sites.
The government plans to test a "double-blind" age verification system in March.
It is this same process that could be used on social networks.
Thus, if this law is passed, young people under the age of 15 could no longer register on social networks without the agreement of their legal guardians, which would also allow "parents to be more involved in digital life of their children", concludes Justine Atlan.
* The mission of the E-Enfance association is to protect minors on the internet and to inform about potential digital dangers. It operates the national number 3018 which accompanies parents, children and adolescents on all issues related to the digital uses of young people and digital violence (cyberharassment, revenge porn, blackmail, exposure to violent content, etc.). Number available 7 days a week, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., free and anonymous.
* The mission of the E-Enfance association is to protect minors on the internet and to inform about potential digital dangers.
It operates the national number 3018 which accompanies parents, children and adolescents on all issues related to the digital uses of young people and digital violence (cyberharassment, revenge porn, blackmail, exposure to violent content, etc.).
Number available 7 days a week, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., free and anonymous.