“Attacking Amazon, I think it’s a bad fight”, said Cédric O, Secretary of State for Digital, on Franceinfo Wednesday, November 18, while elected officials and associations launched a petition for a “Christmas without Amazon” and that small businesses are still closed because of the health crisis. The Secretary of State also wants to moderate social networks more after the assassination of Samuel Paty.
Franceinfo: Elected officials and associations call for a boycott of Amazon. Are they right to do so?
Cedric O: I think we have to regulate Amazon for the problems they pose: the company’s footprint, the cross-subsidization between the cloud and e-commerce, possibly taxes, but I remind you that France is the only country European Union to have implemented a tax on digital services. But no one is forcing the French to order online. Moreover, when they do, they spend three times more at French e-merchants than at Amazon. I think we should not attack e-commerce. We must help small businesses to go digital. We must ensure that French e-merchants are even better than Amazon. Attacking Amazon because they provide better service, I think that’s a bad fight.
The “bill on separatism”, presented on December 9 to the Council of Ministers, includes the creation of an offense of “endangering the life of others by dissemination of private, family or professional information”. Was it the assassination of Samuel Paty that dictated this law?
We want to fight the dissemination of personal information which can be extremely dangerous, where there are vendettas, sometimes fatwas, which are launched. We always operate on the basis of a report. But we want to inject into the law, in connection with Europe which will present a text at the beginning of December, social media moderation obligations, a number of moderators in French. We are sure of ourselves, because Europe will present a text that will be included in the law. It is always difficult to find the crest between freedom of expression and the regulation of hate online. We think that through these obligations of means and the supervision of the French regulator, we have a solution which should allow us to pass this legislative subject. [en référence à la loi Avia retoquée par le Conseil constitutionnel].
5G comes into operation this Wednesday in France, with the lighting of the first antennas in a dozen major cities. You have to have the right package, live in one of the cities concerned and change your phone. Does that pose an ecological problem?
It should be remembered that the French change their phone every two years. So, 5G or not 5G, there is a renewal of the fleet which is extremely fast. 80% of the environmental impact of digital technology is electronic equipment, particularly mobile phones. That’s why we worked with Barbara Pompili [ministre de la Transition écologique] to promote refurbished, and ensure that the price of refurbished continues to fall so that the French prefer a used phone rather than a new phone. On the subject of operator subsidies, we do not intervene on this element. For example, the one euro package often prevents people who have little means from having to borrow. We prefer that people still have access to digital technology, because it is almost vital today. If we stop these plans, we will have 30% to 40% of people who buy a phone through this channel who will not be able to have a phone.