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Digital technology, fundamental rights and cultural diversity, reviewed by Conseil d'Etat

September 19, 2014
The French High Court Conseil d’État released its annual study devoted to "Digital technology and fundamental rights". The study puts forward 50 proposals to regulate digital technologies for the benefit of both individual rights and collective interests. Focus on the recommendations to promote cultural diversity.

The rise of digital technology challenges the current framework for the protection of fundamental rights.  Digital tools increase individuals' capacity to enjoy certain rights and prompt the recognition of new ones, such as the right to internet access, but at the same time they undermine others, such as the right to privacy. A study by French Conseil d'Etat, released on September 9, deals with this issue. Covering a wide range of subjects, the study puts forward 50 recommendations to ensure that digital technology supports both individual rights and collective interests.

Cultural diversity is one of the central issues  addresses by the study. Whilst digital technology is an extraordinary vehicle for knowledge sharing and an enabler of the right to take part in cultural life, it appears to present more than a risk. The obligations imposed on content delivery services to fund domestic productions "are not undermined, in principle, by digital tools", says the Conseil d'Etat. Instead, quota systems that would require audiovisual platforms such as Netflix or iTunes to devote a share of their library to local content are made obsolete by today's digital environment, since users can browse content online at their convenience. In addition, algorithms have become a key tool for content recommendation, but this happens at the expense of cultural diversity because they often draw on users' previous searches and preferences. 

As a consequence, the Conseil d’Etat study recommends « to take cultural diversity into account in the algorithms underlying online audiovisual and music content provider websites »(proposal no 27). Platforms could «  boost French and European works in their ranking algorithms or highlight domestic productions among search results within a specific window », says the Conseil d'Etat. As the EU law makes it impossible to impose such measures by regulation, the French High Court suggests to undertake consultations with the websites involved, followed by the signing of an agreement between these websites and CSA (French broadcasting authority) that sets out voluntary commitments to promote cultural diversity.

This recommendation is in line with other proposals (namely proposals no. 6, 23, 24, 25 and 26) that introduce tools to manage the use of algorithms. An issue that is set to become topical in the coming years.

Find out more:

Read the full study “Digital technology and fundamental rights and freedoms”, released on September 9, 2014  (in French)

Read the study's summary
Cultures with

Michèle Dominique Raymond, Assistant Secretary-General, ACP Group of States, Brussels

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“In the ACP Group of States, the creative industries should be part of the central focus of all initiatives aimed at creating jobs, accelerating economic growth and increasing trade”


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