A young French woman, Floriane Gouget, has faced harassment and censorship on social media after she spoke openly in defense of Mila, a French teenager who has consistently threatened with death after posting a video critical of Islam in January 2020.
To show that caricatures on religion are not taboo and promote secularism in French society, Gouget, 18, created the Last Hope association with Mathys Dupuy from Maine-et-Loire. So far, she has lodged around 50 harassment complaints with the police since November due to the threatening messages she receives on social media. Her Twitter account has also been hacked and her personal address and phone number posted on the web by the attacker, who also changed Gouget’s biography location in her Twitter profile to Lebanon, according to French web outlet Marianne.
“The police officer I had on my file was very much concerned with protecting me,” Gouget said. “They told me not to hesitate to contact them at the slightest suspicious sign and that my case was being treated with the utmost seriousness. If even they say it, I must also take it seriously.”
Gouget has indicated that she has faced direct death threats, and with her personal address and even the address of her parents being posted on the web, she fears the worst.
The 17-year-old Mila, who has become a free speech activist, lives under 24-hour police protection in France and has received over 50,000 death threats. She has also been forced to drop out of school and lives in complete isolation with her parents, a fate that Gouget may soon share as well. Despite Mila being threatened with both death and rape, Twitter recently temporarily suspended her account for another video she posted that was critical of Islam. The case of Mila has become such a hot-button issue in French society that French President Emmanuel Macron was forced to comment on it in the past, with Macron saying that Mila has a right to speak her mind without facing death threats.
As happened to Mila, the Twitter account of Gouget was temporarily suspended by the social network based on her profile photo in which she holds the front page of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which devoted an issue to the republication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. First, Gouget received a message from Twitter telling her that her account violated the rules of the social network and that her profile picture stands for “hate imagery”. To restore her account, the social network offered the young woman to delete the part of the profile that violated their rules.
Gouget’s videos usually only get about 30 views, however, on the day when she spoke in favor of Mila, the number of views on her videos started to increase rapidly. And with the “views” also came increasingly threatening messages.
“At the beginning, I tried to answer because I am someone who likes dialogue, but I quickly realized that it was useless and that there are people who do not want to hear anything,” said Floriane Gouget to French newspaper Le Point.
In just a few hours, she received hundreds of messages.
“The first were not necessarily aggressive, mostly asking why I am defending Mila. Then, very quickly, it got worse,” described Floriane. These were what she calls the usual insults, for example, “Dirty b*tch” and others saying, “F*ck your mother”.
But then disturbing messages started to flow in, for example, “For you too, it’s going to end badly” and “Anyway, Mila will have her head cut off”.
But there is a message that particularly struck Gouget. One user sent her message that read, “Hi, it’s you who threatens the prophet and who live in [redacted]”. The user had apparently figured out where Gouget lives, and it was then that she decided to file her first harassment complaint with Twitter and the police.
Soutien mon amie Floriane, à mes côtés depuis le début, qui doit affronter les mêmes haineux que moi. Elle fait partie de ceux qui ont du courage, elle ne se tait pas.
J’invite ma communauté à la soutenir. ❤️ https://t.co/0oddawGxlI
— Mila (@magicalorrs) March 26, 2021
“Support my friend Floriane, who has been by my side from the beginning. She has to face the same haters as I do. She is one of those who have the courage not to remain silent. I call on my community to support her,” wrote Mila in one of her Twitter posts.
Title image: Floriane’s profile picture on Twitter.