Macron signs a document PHILIPPE WOJAZER/AFP/Getty Images

Can Fake News Be Outlawed?

French President Emmanuel Macron used the occasion of an annual New Year's press conference this year to propose a new law to prevent the spread of disinformation online. But even if France's restrictions work as intended, fake news is a global problem, and it will require a global solution.

PARIS – How can societies combat the stream of false, often fabricated information that surges across the Internet and through social media, polluting political debates almost everywhere?

That question has bedeviled defenders of democracy at least since the 2016 US presidential election. And at a New Year’s press conference outside the Élysée Palace this month, French President Emmanuel Macron offered his own answer.

Macron’s goal, it seems, is to curtail “fake news” by law. He is promising that, by the end of the year, he will introduce a bill to crack down on those spreading misinformation during any election period.

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