France aims to protect kids from parents oversharing pics online



PARIS — French parents had better think twice before posting too many pictures of their offspring on social media.

On Tuesday, members of the National Assembly’s law committee unanimously green-lit draft legislation to protect children’s rights to their own images.

“The message to parents is that their job is to protect their children’s privacy,” Bruno Studer, an MP from President Emmanuel Macron’s party who put the bill forward, said in an interview. “On average, children have 1,300 photos of themselves circulating on social media platforms before the age of 13, before they are even allowed to have an account,” he added.

The French president and his wife Brigitte have made child protection online a political priority. Lawmakers are also working on age-verification requirements for social media and rules to limit kids’ screen time.

Studer, who was first elected in 2017, has made a career out of child safety online. In the past few years, he authored two groundbreaking pieces of legislation: one requiring smartphone and tablet manufacturers to give parents the option to control their children’s internet access, and another introducing legal protections for YouTube child stars.

So-called sharenting (combining “sharing” and “parenting,” referring to posting sensitive pictures of one’s kids online) constitutes one of the main risks to children’s privacy, according to the bill’s explanatory statement. Half of the pictures shared by child sexual abusers were initially posted by parents on social media, according to reports by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, mentioned in the text.

The legislation adopted on Tuesday includes protecting their children’s privacy among parents’ legal duties. Both parents would be jointly responsible for their offspring’s image rights and “shall involve the child … according to his or her age and degree of maturity.”

In case of disagreement between parents, a judge can ban one of them from posting or sharing a child’s pictures without authorization from the other. And in the most extreme cases, parents can lose their parental authority over their kids’ image rights “if the dissemination of the child’s image by both parents seriously affects the child’s dignity or moral integrity.”

The bill still needs to go through a plenary session next week and the Senate before it would become law.

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