France passed a law targeting health-threatening psychological manipulation and influence, but didn’t criminalize criticism of mRNA vaccines

“France will send citizens to jail if they question mRNA vaccines”; “It’s now a crime in France to oppose the mRNA vax”
Misleading: The posts make blanket statements to the effect that all criticism against mRNA vaccines would lead to jail under a new French law. However, the law only targets the use of repeated pressure and manipulation to force people to refrain from treatment, while hiding the health risks of not vaccinating. Thus, the law doesn’t apply to most content criticizing or opposing mRNA vaccines.
France passed a law in February 2024 that prohibits using pressure, manipulation and biased information to advocate abandoning proven medical treatments and protective measures. This law aims to combat psychological manipulations and pressure that may jeopardize people’s health.

FULL CLAIM: “France will send citizens to jail if they question mRNA vaccines”; “It’s now a crime in France to oppose the mRNA vax”; “Making any statements against vaccines, even if they’re true, will now be criminal acts.”


Claims that France passed a law criminalizing criticism of mRNA vaccines circulated on social media in February 2024. They referred to a bill passed by the French National Assembly on 14 February 2024, addressing sectarian drift (“dérive sectaire”) and the consequences they may have on people’s health. However, these claims are incorrect.

The French interdepartmental task force of surveillance and combat against sectarian drift (“mission interministérielle de vigilance et de lutte contre les dérives sectaires”, Miviludes) defined a sectarian drift as follows:

“This is an abuse of the freedom of thought, opinion, or religion that infringes on public order, laws or regulations, fundamental rights, security, or the integrity of individuals. It is characterized by the implementation, by an organized group or an isolated individual, regardless of its nature or activity, of pressures or techniques aimed at creating, maintaining, or exploiting in a person a state of psychological or physical subjection, depriving them of part of their free will, with harmful consequences for that person, their entourage, or for society.” [emphasis ours]

Thus, a sectarian drift doesn’t necessarily refer to a religious cult. Rather, it refers to the act of undermining people’s free will, for instance through the use of psychological manipulation and control, in a way that is harmful for the individuals or society.

One illustration of that concept is the case of the YouTuber and self-proclaimed naturopath Thierry Casasnovas who is under investigation since March 2023 for illegal practice of medicine, scam, and psychological subjection. In his videos, Casasnovas advocates against vaccination, and claims that eating raw vegetables can cure cancer and diabetes. Ahead of the investigation, the Miviludes had expressed concerns over cases of Casasnovas’ followers who interrupted their treatments.

Part of the impetus for this bill was the observation by the Miviludes that sectarian drift had increased over the years, with a 36% jump from 2020 to 2021. A third of the cases reported to the task force concerned behaviors directly threatening people’s health. For instance, some people or groups were observed to advise cancer patients to interrupt their medical treatment and embark on an alternative “pseudo-therapeutic” approach with no proven effectiveness.

To address those issues, chapter III of bill 241 passed on 14 February 2024 aimed at “protecting [people’s] health” by targeting actions and speech encouraging patients to avoid or interrupt their treatments.

The bill specifically referred to “therapeutic or prophylactic medical treatments”. Prophylactic measures, such as vaccines, aim to prevent or reduce the risk of a disease. Consequently, some people interpreted the bill as a prohibition of criticism against mRNA vaccines.

For example, one video on Instagram claimed that “France will send citizens to jail if they question mRNA vaccines”; another affirmed that “France is passing a law that can lead to imprisonment for anyone who advocates against mRNA vaccines”, that “the bill specifically highlights mRNA vaccines”, and that “making any statements against vaccines, even if they’re true, will now be criminal acts”.

However, this misinterprets the bill’s content. To begin with, this bill doesn’t make any explicit mention of mRNA vaccines, contrary to what some versions of that claim affirmed.

Furthermore, the bill defines precisely what kind of behaviors would be considered illegal under the new law. Chapter III article 4 paragraph 2 states:

“Advocating any person suffering from a pathology, through repeated pressures or manipulation, to abandon or refrain from following a therapeutic or prophylactic medical treatment is punishable by one year of imprisonment and a fine of 30,000 euros, when this abandonment or abstention is presented as beneficial for the health of the targeted person while it is, in the state of medical knowledge, highly likely to lead to particularly serious consequences for their physical or mental health, considering the pathology they suffer from.” [emphasis ours].

This means that criticizing the safety or effectiveness of mRNA vaccines wouldn’t be illegal per se, contrary to the claim. Rather, it would be illegal to repeatedly exert pressure on people, or use other manipulation tactics, to induce people not to get vaccinated.

It also means that, if the criticism is rooted in medical fact, it wouldn’t fall within the scope of that law. For example, commenting on the risks of myocarditis of mRNA vaccines isn’t illegal, as long as the medical facts are accurately presented.

Paragraph 5 of that same article states:

“When the provocation is accompanied by clear and complete information regarding health consequences, and the conditions under which this provocation has been made do not undermine the free and informed will of the person, the offenses defined in this article may not be constituted.”

In other words, publishing negative opinions about mRNA vaccines, as long as it’s done fairly by also informing people about the risks of not getting vaccinated and not undermining their freedom of decision, wouldn’t be illegal.

Finally, paragraph seven of that same article provides protection for whistleblowers. The French law 2016-1691 defines a whistleblower as an individual who reveals a serious threat against the public interest, in good faith and without conflict of interest. Thus, this law would not target anyone who reveals any negligence or wrongdoing by a vaccine manufacturer or public health agency that would pose a serious threat to the public.

In summary, France passed a bill in February 2024 that strengthened its ability to combat sectarian drifts encouraging people to refrain from treatment and prophylactic measures for diseases that would compromise their health. However, this law didn’t criminalize criticism of mRNA vaccines, nor will it imprison anyone just for speaking against the use of mRNA vaccines.

Instead, the law only targets actions and speech that use pressure and manipulation to coerce people into refraining from medical treatment. Those who criticize mRNA vaccines but are also transparent about the risks of not getting vaccinated and refrain from undermining people’s freedom to make their own decisions wouldn’t be prosecuted under this law.


Published on: 23 Feb 2024 | Editor:

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