Social networks and other online content providers will have to remove pedophile and terrorism-related content from their platforms within the hour or face a fine of up to 4.0 per cent of their global revenue under a new French law that has passed the parliament.
For other "manifestly illicit" content, companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat will have 24 hours to remove it, according to the law, which sets up a specialised digital prosecutor at the courts and a government unit to observe hate speech online.
Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet told parliament the law will help reduce online hate speech.
"People will think twice before crossing the red line if they know that there is a high likelihood that they will be held to account," she said.
Free-speech advocates criticised the new law.
Online civil liberties defence group La Quadrature du Net said in a statement the legislator should have instead targeted the internet giants' business models.
It said it was unrealistic to think content could be withdrawn within the hour and the law was unnecessary.
"If the site does not censure the content (for instance because the complaint was sent during the weekend or at night), then police can force internet service providers to block the site everywhere in France," it said.
Australian Associated Press