It turns out, it really does matter what you post on social media. Since she was stripped of parliamentary immunity in November by the National Assembly, Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right, is facing charges for sharing extremists posts on Twitter.
As reported by AFP news agency, The party leader was charged with distributing “violent messages that incite terrorism or pornography or seriously harm human dignity” and can be seen by a minor. The tweets were posted in 2015, but without immunity, she is able to be prosecuted.
This is not the first case of consequences for sharing social media content. Yonatan Tesfaye, a former spokesperson for Ethiopia’s opposition party, was sentenced to more than six years of jail time last May for encouraging terrorist acts on Facebook.
In the U.K., there is a proposed tax penalty for leaving up violent images or extremist content, forcing companies to take action or pay the price. Additionally, in Russian, sharing certain depictions of Putin is now considered “extremism.” New regulations have already led to arrests.
In this case, Le Pen shared images that were captioned “Daesh is THIS” (Daesh is the Arabic acronym used for ISIS). She shared an image of the beheaded body of American journalist James Foley, which was later taken down after outrage from Foley’s family. She also shared an image of a man being run over by a tank and another of a man being burned alive in a cage.
Le Pen admitted no guilt to AFP, saying “I am being charged for having condemned the horrors of Daesh. In other countries, this would have earned me a medal.”
Legal taken in response to behavior on social media is a relatively new phenomenon. It is unclear whether those who like or retweet these shared images will also face penalties — though it seems unlikely.
Additionally, these charges raise the question of whether U.S. politicians could be convicted of similar crimes. President Trump drew harsh criticism from the U.K. after sharing extremists posts containing violent imagery, but it seems highly improbable that any legal action will be taken.
Le Pen potentially faces up to three years in jail as well as a fine of €75,000 (about $92,000). This could set a new precedent in the West for responding to such social media behavior and, in the future, could theoretically spark further convictions.