In the censorship that GAFAM operates perfectly well, Kairos has been targeted, with its 43,000-subscriber YouTube channel shut down under the shameful pretext of not meeting « community criteria »(1). But we are obviously not the only ones, France Soir having also paid the price of the privatization of the public word and the media-political attacks. Their lawyer explains the background of the case, which is more or less identical to ours. The opportunity to consult each other between free media.
The Commercial Court of Paris not only validates Google’s censorship but adds to it
By judgment dated September 6, 2022, the Paris Commercial Court dismissed France Soir ‘s claim (2) against the Google companies and ordered it to pay them more than 70,000 euros in legal fees (article 700 of the CPC)(3).
France Soir asked for the reinstatement of its articles in Google News, its Youtube channel, and its advertising services (Admanager and Adexchange).
At the origin of this censorship: the application of its rules by Google forbidding the diffusion of any content contrary to the consensus of the WHO and the local authorities, in connection with the Covid epidemic.
70.000 euros of article 700!
The condemnation of France Soir to pay 70,000 euros in legal fees to Google companies could in itself justify an appeal. This is a real record. Indeed, when Google companies are ordered to pay these costs, their order does not usually exceed 20,000 euros (4), and exceptionally reaches 50,000 euros (5).
Why condemn the France Soir companies to such an amount, if not to be able to censor them even more? In addition to Google’s censorship, there is now the court’s censorship. As if France Soir, and the company Shopper Union France which publishes it, were not already mutilated and weakened enough.
The power to express oneself freely
France Soir must have a lot of power to try to destroy it to this extent. It is true that he has a certain power, that of expressing himself freely. We can not share his ideas, but from there to ban France Soir from Google News and Youtube, there is only one step, that Google, then the court, crossed.
But what justifies such a condemnation of France Soir? Unfortunately, we have read the judgment, but there is no real argument to justify it. Google’s censorship is unique in its scope and violence.
It reminds us of the worst moments of history, with the inquisition, its autodafés, and other bibliocausts: more than 55,000 articles deindexed from Google News, and a Youtube channel of 277,000 subscribers, completely deleted.
But Google companies are not the only ones who want to muzzle France Soir.
It is in everyone’s interest to oust him:
- Google and other Alphabet companies, in partnership with WHO and/or major pharmaceutical companies,
- The State which defends » whatever it takes » its health policy of » all vaccines « ,
- Competing media that make France Soir look like a vulgar » blog » without journalists, conspiracy theorists, or even extreme right-wing.
The worst thing is that France Soir does not have to fight against only one, but against all three at the same time, which are themselves linked by partnerships, converging interests, and thus form a real monster.
The absence of a » law
The censorship of the Google companies is, first of all, unfounded. It is not based on any law or contract. The Court supported the Google companies’ argument that its rule prohibiting content contrary to the consensus was contractual in nature.
He deduced that France Soir accepted the rules of Google Actualité by the mere fact of inserting the tag » max snipet » in its source code, and the rules of Youtube by the mere fact of creating a channel.
Concerning the insertion of a tag, you don’t need to be a lawyer to understand that it cannot be considered as an acceptance of rules. Regarding Youtube, the court invents the fact that, in order to create a channel, it is necessary to » click on the formula by using this service, you accept the Rules « .
What the Google companies, for lack of evidence, themselves did not claim… The court therefore went so far as to invent new documents. The Court of Appeal will decide.
The court thus conferred on Google’s rules a contractual nature that they do not have.
An abusive rule
Even assuming that the Google rule was accepted by France Soir, how can we not recognize that it is abusive? Indeed, nothing is more fluid and subjective than a consensus. It is not an objective, predictable rule.
This rule is moreover dangerous because it aims at depriving any debate, any contrary opinion, any scientific criticism, or the power in place. Finally, it is absurd: in order to reach a consensus, it is necessary to debate. To forbid debate is thus to forbid consensus.
The time of the Athenian democracy is long gone, when every citizen was invited to express himself through the question: » Who wants to speak? Of course Google is not the Pnyx, but because of its dominant position on the information market, how can we ignore its impact on the population, on democracy itself?
Google is not just a platform, it is the main engine of our information-based societies.
The contractual basis and the very objectivity of Google’s rules being questionable, the court tries to justify the censorship of France Soir validating another Google thesis: France Soir would broadcast from » false information « , a qualification created by the law of December 22, 2018 on the fight against information manipulation.
However, the case law, both of the Constitutional Council(Decision No. 2018–773 DC of December 20, 2018), and of the judicial courts(6) qualify as false information those that are objectively false, devoid of any link with reality, and disseminated artificially or automated, massive and deliberate.
- Is France Soir denying the epidemic? No, he does not agree with the alarmist speeches that exaggerate its danger,
- Does France Soir deny the excess mortality? No, he criticizes the figures while not denying that there was an excess of deaths,
- Does France Soir claim that RNA vaccines modify genes? No, he says that there is simply a risk, and that there is no scientific evidence to the contrary,
- Does France Soir deny the benefit-risk of vaccines? No, it simply says that this balance varies according to the people involved, their age, and their comorbidity,
- Does France Soir deny the effectiveness of PCR tests? No, he recalls that its inventor himself had expressed doubts about its effectiveness,
- Does France Soir deny the effectiveness of wearing a mask? No, he explains that the mask can be useful in some cases, such as in the hospital, and useless in others, such as when you are walking alone on the beach,
- Is France Soir saying that alternative treatments are miracle solutions? No, he says they may have some effectiveness in the early stages of the disease, which is based on serious scientific studies.
Instead of taking these nuances into account, recognizing that France Soir does not disseminate false information, in the legal sense of the term, the court took up Google’s arguments en bloc, which presented France Soir through » short sentences « They are decontextualized, taken from his articles and videos, which aim to frighten, demonize and make people believe in the big bad wolf.
The white dove
On the other side of the bar, nothing would be wrong with the Google companies:
- They would perfectly inform their users about their « consensual » editorial line,
- Their rules would be perfectly accepted by the editors, both in Google News by simply inserting the tag « max snipet », and in Youtube by simply having created a channel,
- The sanction of the Google companies would be perfectly necessary and proportionate,
- Of course, Google companies would have no private interests, would be completely disinterested, and would only fight for the common good of humanity.
As someone who has been fighting Google companies for 20 years, I have my doubts.
After a long battle, the Court of Chambéry has just given us reason by recognizing the illicit character of a Google My Business file of the American giant(See the article Google My Business file: Google again condemned.)(7).
Not to mention that Google companies are regularly condemned for abuse of dominant position, infringement of personal data rights, and non-compliance with consumer law. Let’s hope that the Court of Appeal will not be fooled by Google’s attempt to justify its censorship on the pretext of the quality of its content and its brand image.
The censorship of France Soir is therefore not founded, justified, by a contract or a law.
The censorship of Google companies is then disproportionate. The mere fact that other social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram have not completely banned France Soir shows how disproportionate Google’s sanction is.
However, the rules of these platforms are similar: they condemn content that is contrary to the so-called consensus in the health field. But the sanction is distinct: on the one hand, total censorship (Google/Youtube), on the other hand, more targeted measures:
- Warning message (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram),
- Loss of visibility of some articles due to the deletion of the image that accompanies them (Facebook),
- Targeted deletion of an article, or a post (Twitter, Instagram),
- Time-limited censorship: for 24 hours (Facebook).
The sanctions of other social networks, although questionable in themselves, are therefore taken on a case-by-case basis. They do not go so far as to permanently eradicate France Soir from their services, and this for an indefinite period. They are therefore measured, graduated, calculated according to each article, content.
If such actions could be taken by these networks, they could also be taken by Google. And this is all the more so as it is difficult to understand in the judgment what the real purpose of this sanction is:
- Protect Google’s interests (contractual, image) or
- Protecting the interests of the public (health protection, misinformation)?
On this point the judgment is particularly vague. This explains why he was unable to carry out a balance of interests, which is essential in this matter. The censorship of the American giant is therefore not necessary within the meaning of Article 10.2 of the ECHR(8).
A discriminatory censorship
In addition, Google’s sanction is discriminatory: it removes the content of France Soir while leaving identical articles and videos on Youtube and Google News. Google tried to clean up during the whole trial, and cut off the heads, similar to France Soir, that were sticking out: there are still some, and not the least.
The Youtube channel of the IHU of Marseille is like the nose in the middle of the face(9). More than 627,000 subscribers(10), and millions of views for a content identical to that of France Soir. France Soir has been one of the main supporters of the IHU Youtube channel, and of its main speaker, Professor Didier Raoult. For the court, this would not be a proof…
However, the line of France Soir is identical to that of the IHU: to criticize on many points the so-called health consensus. Not to criticize for the sake of criticizing, for a purely political purpose, but to criticize with scientific arguments in order to better inform citizens about their health, and the government’s health policy.
The list of arguments against the judgment is long, and we would not want to try the readers’ patience. Further explanations are available on the France Soir website(11). We believe that this judgment should be overturned on appeal.
It does not only affect the freedom of expression and enterprise of France Soir. It illustrates the hold of the GAFAs, and Google in particular, on our political, legal and economic system. In a word, about our democracy.
We must collectively defend ourselves against this invasion. It is not for Google to make the law, to judge us, to dictate our way of thinking, or of expressing ourselves, but for the American giant to adapt to our culture, our values, our law.
Our sovereignty, our independence and our freedom are at stake.
By Arnaud Dimeglio, Lawyer, published on https://www.village-justice.com/articles/france-soir-google-droit-plus-fort (12)
Author’s note: Mr. Arnaud Dimeglio was a party to the case commented above.
- La société France Soir Groupe, titulaire de la marque France Soir et la société Shopper Union France éditrice du site www.francesoir.fr
- Convention Européenne des Droits de l’Homme.
- Soit 3 fois plus que la chaine initiale de FranceSoir.
- https://www.francesoir.fr/videos-pause-interview/proces-francesoir-google-me-dimeglio-disseque-decision-tribunal ; https://www.francesoir.fr/opinions-tribunes/voie-en-recours-FranceSoir-fait-appel-contre-google
- Sous l’adresse précise https://www.village-justice.com/articles/france-soir-google-droit-plus-fort,43893.html?page=article&id_article=43893