French President Macron Blames TikTok, Snapchat, and Video Games for Recent Riots in France

Photo: Valeria Mongelli / Bloomberg (Getty Images)

Macron cites social media platforms and video games as contributing factors to ongoing unrest

In the wake of the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old delivery driver, France has been engulfed in riots, and French President Emmanuel Macron has put forth several theories on the causes of the unrest. Macron points to social media platforms such as TikTok and Snapchat, as well as video games, as potential factors fueling the protests.

The teenager, identified only by his first name Nahel, was shot on June 27 during a traffic check in the Paris suburb of Nanterre. Sadly, Nahel died at the scene, amplifying the already heightened tensions between French police and residents of the Nanterre neighbourhood and beyond.

Mounia, the mother of Nahel, a 17-year-old teenager killed by a French police officer in Nanterre during a traffic stop, and relatives stand on a van as they attend a march in tribute to Nahel in Nanterre, Paris suburb, France, June 29, 2023. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

Disturbing videos circulating online depict the riots, with police deploying tear gas and protesters setting cars on fire, looting, and burning garbage. The Associated Press reports that, as of Friday, 875 arrests had been made in the past few days, and Macron responded by deploying an additional 40,000 officers to the streets, opting not to declare a state of emergency.

Macron attributes a significant role to social media networks in exacerbating the unrest, specifically pointing to Snapchat and TikTok as examples. He intends to collaborate with tech companies to remove the “most sensitive content” shared online, emphasizing the need for responsibility on these platforms. The French police are actively investigating the identities of individuals posting calls for continued protests on social media.

French riot police officers walk next to a vehicle upside down during the fifth day of protests following the death of Nahel, a 17-year-old teenager killed by a French police officer in Nanterre during a traffic stop, in Paris, France, July 2, 2023. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Responding to Macron’s claims, a Snapchat spokesperson told AP that they have a zero-tolerance policy for content promoting or inciting hatred or violence. The spokesperson assured that such content is proactively moderated, swiftly removed, and appropriate action is taken. Snapchat does, however, allow factual reporting on the situation.

Interestingly, Macron’s focus on social media is not the sole reason he attributes to the riots. He also singles out video games, suggesting that some protesters are reenacting violent scenarios witnessed in games. However, it is essential to note that this viewpoint ignores issues such as police brutality, income inequality, and race policy in France. Notably, Nahel, the victim, was of Arab descent.

Logo of Ubisoft, a major French video game developer /Photo prise le 8 septembre 2022/REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

Scientific research fails to establish a connection between video games and violence

Instances of protests against police brutality are not unprecedented in France. Massive demonstrations took place following the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, and in 2005, riots erupted after the deaths of two young boys fleeing from the police in the Clichy-sous-Bois commune of Paris. During the 2005 riots, the then-Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, declared a state of emergency.

Blaming video games for societal violence is not a new phenomenon. The scapegoating of video games as the cause of mass shootings dates back to the tragic 1999 Columbine massacre, and similar claims were made by Fox News after the 2022 mass shooting in Buffalo, New York. However, scientific research has failed to establish a direct connection between video games and real-life violence.

Image: Ubisoft

Read Also: Unrest Grips France as Teen’s Death by Police Sparks Riots Despite Short Calm

While the ongoing riots in France continue to be a cause for concern, it is important to analyze the underlying socio-political issues and address them appropriately. As the investigations and efforts to restore peace unfold, it remains crucial to rely on evidence-based research rather than stereotypes and scapegoating. – Kotaku