On Sunday France elected a new president, Emmanuel Macron, who will be leading the country for the next five years. In the context of the global trend toward authoritarian populism and its negative impact on the fundamental rights to privacy and free expression, the stakes for this election were even higher than usual.
The electoral campaign was really tense and saw for the time the use of disruptive techniques such as the spreading of unverified information and troll armies. Macron and his team were also targeted by a hack on the last day of the campaign. French news media did not report on the content of the documents to respect the national law that limits reporting of unverified information and prevents candidates from speaking in public in the last 48 hours of the campaign. In addition, the remaining time was not adequate to analyse the large amount of unconfirmed information and the hack was a clear attempt to disrupt the elections.
The other candidate in the second round of the French presidential election was Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Front National party. Access Now has had deep concerns about a Le Pen victory, since a win would in all likelihood have posed an imminent threat to fundamental rights, putting at risk the most vulnerable communities in France and potentially undermining the future of democratic values in the European Union.
However, even with a Macron victory, risks remain for the protection of human rights online. Access Now is preparing a detailed analysis of Macron’s statements during the campaign to help shed light on what we can expect from his presidency on issues such as government surveillance, encryption, and the US-EU “Privacy Shield” arrangement.
It’s not just future policy questions that are of concern here. France has been in constant state of emergency following terrorist attacks. This must end if the country is to recover from the rights-harming status quo, where the most basic freedoms and civil liberties are continually suspended — and degraded — in the name of fighting terrorism.
Today, it might look like the future for Europe is brighter than it was the day after the Brexit referendum. But we have yet to address many of the challenges presented by Front National and the party’s supporters in France, as well as by leaders of other countries in the EU and across the globe.
No one should accept or tolerate policies based on, or supporting, racism, discrimination, and gross abuse of human rights. Access Now’s mission is to defend and to extend the digital rights of users at risk. We will continue our work to ensure that any government in power, as well as private actors, respects human rights for everyone, regardless of gender, race, religion, or any other discriminatory distinctions. This is why you will find us opposing any actor seeking to undermine our most basic human rights.
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