France's new 'Sleeping Giants' law

France is making advertisers publicly post their ad placements every month.

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We’re kicking off this newsletter with a small but important story that no newspaper seems to have noticed yet (this won’t happen often so we’re savoring it). On January 22, the French Senate passed a law against “hate” online. It’s called the Projet de Loi Avia, or the Avia Law.

There’s lots to unpack in this sweeping anti-hate bill, and the Center for Democracy & Technology (USA) has done a good start of it in their letter to the French government. But what we are most interested in is a small part of this bill: the part that requires companies to report their advertisement site lists every month to the public.

The new law is known as the “Sleeping Giants” Amendment, named for the tireless work of the still-anonymous folks at Sleeping Giants France.

For those of you who aren’t following closely, the SG France Twitter account has been ruthlessly effective in defunding the far-right in France. It’s incredible to see them recognized on this level for their contributions to dismantling hate in French media. We are so proud!


What makes this amendment so interesting? This is the first law that we’ve heard of that identifies that digital ad placements - where your ads end up on the internet - is a matter of public interest.

Let’s look at why this such a big deal.

What does a site list tell you?

Why is the French government so interested in your site list? Because it tells you a lot. A site list is a breakdown of the domains your ads have been served. You can get it from the ad exchange where you purchased your ads. It shows you:

This example is from a very small campaign with a small budget, placed over a small amount of time. But even this site list is like 40,000 websites long.

These site lists can be daunting to look through. 40,000 websites? No thank you. You can see how easy it would be to just turn a blind eye and trust that your ads are being placed on legitimate sites free of hate and disinformation.

That’s why this campaign has sites like World Lifestyle (a suspicious site) and The Sun (a problematic tabloid) and OTHER (which is a way for the ad exchange to say “we don’t know where these ads went”).

Most marketers let their ads run without ever checking their site list.

But now that French companies will be mandated to share this information with the class, we’re curious about what happens next. Will they start reviewing their site lists now and weed out the “bad” sites? Will some companies preemptively switch to whitelists? Will they just post the site lists and not give a shit?

We’ll be watching closely.

When does the law go into effect?

As we mentioned earlier, Loi Avia is no small undertaking.

Aside from the Sleeping Giants amendment, the law will now compel tech platforms to remove dangerous and illegal content within 24 hours or be subject to massive fines of up to 4% of their annual turnover.

Our understanding is that Loi Avia is now going through a review process to make final changes (there is a final reading scheduled for early February) and to ensure its compliance with EU law. Once this is over, the law will go into effect.

France isn’t asking nicely anymore. It’s coming at the tech world with the full force of the law.

What will be the fallout? We will keep you posted. ????

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