Online harassment in France - statistics & facts

As the virtual presence is becoming more common, indirect confrontations are becoming more frequent. Under the cover of anonymity, harassers have long been able to act with impunity. Reacting to these attacks, the first action against online harassment was put in place by the French government at the end of 2014. Henceforth, any person repeating remarks or behavior, with the effect of deteriorating the living conditions of another person, was now liable to one year of imprisonment and a fine.

Harassment on social media

With numerous stalking and harassment of individuals and celebrities taking place on social media, the number of charges pressed for online harassment had come to 497 in 2019, according to the French Ministry of the Interior. Other crimes such as attacks on minors or terrorist exchanges are on the rise. The number of reported online posts containing child pronography and terrorist information had reached 7,542 and 4,332 in 2018, respectively. The CNIL (Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés), France's national data protection authority, had acted against 60 to 70 percent of these reported online crimes.

Much as the government is involved, so is the online community. In 2018, when asked about the severity of online bullying and the existing methods to address it, 76 percent of respondents all over the world thought measures were insufficient and that the problem required special attention. For French children, in 2019, the most shocking content or words were discovered on social media. As younger generations seem to have more affinity with social media, some studies have mentioned the possible detrimental effects of online bullying on future coping mechanisms. When expressing their fears of the internet in 2018, children were more scared to be harassed than have their personal data stolen. In fact, 29 percent of children aged 11 to 18 said they did not react to online hate because they just did not know how to answer.

Harassment on social media can be expressed in several forms: the creation of fake profiles and, the most common, sending insults. These attacks are often discriminatory in nature, amounting to homophobia, Islamophobia, racism or sexism. In 2019, more than 40 percent of people under 50 had already suffered repeated personal attacks on online social platforms, as did 22 percent of young people aged 18 to 24.

Online dating and hate speech

Another form of harassment on the internet is the sending of unwanted and inappropriate text, photo or video content of a sexual nature. With increasing acts of "revenge porn", and the ease with which this content can be posted and distributed online, half of people who have shared private sexual content with someone else dread the exposure. It is women who, for the most part, are affected on social media, but also on online dating sites. In 2018, 63 percent of women aged 18 to 24 had already received an inappropriate photo against their will and have had to block a user due to harassment on a dating site.

With noticeable resentment against the political configuration and long-lasting social structures causing dissatisfaction in France, the number of reported general insults towards minority groups like migrants, the LGBT community as well as publicly criticized political figures had reached an all-time high during the last quarter of 2019. In line with Facebook globally deleting about 10 million hateful comments during the first quarter of 2020, recent events such as the Black Lives Matter movement triggered enough incentives to start an international online and offline dialogue about hate speech, discrimination and other forms of violence. Hence, the number of French online hate speech instances during the first quarter of 2020 remained lower. However, while the government and various organizations do their part to help, some measures remain personal. French users regularly check their privacy settings on social media.

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Online harassment in France

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Online harassment on social media

Online harassment on dating platforms

Hate speech online

Young people and cyber-bullying

Measures against cyber harassment

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