French President Emmanuel Macron is facing criticism from opposition figures for his remarks on blocking social media to prevent violent protests in times of crisis.
In the backdrop of protests against the police killing of a 17-year-old Algerian-origin boy, Macron on Tuesday said blocking social media might be needed, during a meeting with mayors of towns in Paris.
This remark reported by the French broadcaster BFMTV was later explained by the president's entourage, who said that Macron did not mean an entire black-out, but a temporary and punctual suspension of the social media platforms.
Macron's remarks, however, sparked outrage among the opposition parties.
The head of the Republicans party group in the National Assembly, Olivier Marleix criticized immediately the president on Twitter: "Cutting social media? Like China, Iran, North Korea?"
Ecologist group leader Cyrielle Chatelain lashed out at Macron on Twitter with the same argument: "Will we handle social media like in Russia or China?"
"Ok Kim Jung-Un," Mathilde Panot, head of the La France Insoumise group in the National Assembly, said on Twitter.
Ecological Transition Minister Christophe Bechu tried to alleviate the debate by telling broadcaster LCI on Wednesday that this was not about a censorship law at all.
Member of the Renaissance party, Eric Bothorel also said blocking social media was not an option on the table.
"What is planned is to accelerate the removal of some content, or limiting some features (of those platforms)," he said.
Government spokesperson Olivier Veran told broadcaster LCI on Thursday that the government wants to retake control of social media, and added that the wish is to have the means to sap features which can be used badly by rioters, including geo-localization.
Social media debate
Telling a gathering of mayors of towns where the protests turned violent that the riots have passed their peak, Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday: "We must get down to restoring the sustainable order as our absolute priority.”
"I will be cautious for the following days and weeks but the peak has passed," the president told the mayors at Elysee Palace, according to BFMTV.
"When things die down, maybe there should be a regulation or a restriction on (internet) access,” said Macron. “This must especially not be done in the heat of the moment, and I am glad that we didn’t have to do it.”
Macron also called for reviewing the use of social media by the youngest, and mentioned bans.
Protests have rocked France since June 27, when a police officer shot dead Nahel M., 17, of Algerian descent during a traffic check in the Paris suburb of Nanterre after he allegedly ignored orders to stop.
The officer who fired the shot faces a formal investigation for voluntary homicide and has been placed under preliminary detention.
The protest began in Nanterre and spread to other cities the next evening, including Lyon, Toulouse, Lille, and Marseille.
Tensions rose following clashes between police and protesters.