French President Emmanuel Macron has argued that social media platforms and video games helped to fuel riots across the country, amid a major bout of unrest over the death of a 17-year-old at the hands of law enforcement.
Speaking after an emergency security meeting to address the ongoing riots on Friday, Macron noted that around one-third of those arrested over the last three nights were “young or very young,” suggesting the internet was having a negative influence on children and teens.
“Platforms and networks are playing a major role in the events of recent days,” he said of the unrest. “We’ve seen them – Snapchat, TikTok and several others – serve as places where violent gatherings have been organized, but there’s also a form of mimicry of the violence which for some young people leads them to lose touch with reality.”
The president added that youths were taking to the streets to act out “the video games that have intoxicated them,” going on to urge parents to keep their children at home.
Earlier, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that the government warned social media sites not to host calls to violence and other content glorifying the riots. He vowed to “take all necessary measures if we become aware that social networks, whoever they are, don’t respect the law.” The minister also ordered a shutdown of certain forms of public transit, which have become a target for vandals.
The riots erupted on Tuesday night in the Paris suburb of Nanterre after a police officer fatally shot 17-year-old pizza delivery driver Nahel M. during a traffic stop. The officer in question was quickly jailed and charged with homicide, following a call for “vengeance” by the teen’s mother.
The unrest and looting intensified through the week and spread to other major cities, including the Mediterranean port of Marseille, where rioters reportedly ransacked a gun store. Several police stations were also attacked, according to reports on social media.
TRUST ME, a massive curse has fallen on France. Barely a month after a three-month long “pension protest,” Another round of protests, 10 times bigger and more destructive than the 2005 protests and all the previous ones, has returned to France.
They had to deploy over 40,000… pic.twitter.com/E2r58bFW7e
— J. C. Okechukwu (@jcokechukwu) June 30, 2023
Darmanin said on Friday that a total of 917 people have been detained by police so far, adding that their average age is just 17.
With some 45,000 officers deployed to quell the disturbances, two major police unions have demanded a crackdown on the “wild horde” of demonstrators, stating that officers were waging a “war” on the government’s behalf. They went on to warn that law enforcement would become “the resistance” should officials fail to restore order.
As of Friday afternoon, rioters had ignited nearly 4,000 fires, destroyed more than 2,000 cars and damaged around 500 buildings, according to Macron, who was also forced to return early from an EU summit in Brussels due to the violence.