During the debate over the French security bill (LOPPSI), the government opposed all the amendments seeking to minimize the risks
attached to filtering Internet sites.
The refusal to make this measure experimental and temporary shows that the executive could not care less about its effectiveness to tackle online child pornography or about its disastrous consequences.
This measure will allow the French government to take control of the Internet, as the door is now open to the extension of Net filtering.
Moreover, whereas the effectiveness of the Net filtering provision cannot be proven, the French government refuses to take into account the fact that over-blocking - i.e the collateral censorship of perfectly lawful websites - is inevitable2.
Protection of childhood is shamelessly exploited by Nicolas Sarkozy to implement a measure that will lead to collateral censorship and very dangerous drifts. After the HADOPI comes the LOPPSI: the securitarian machinery of the government is
being deployed in an attempt to control the Internet at the expense of freedoms , concludes Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for La Quadrature du Net.
French lawmakers will vote today on a proposal to filter Internet traffic. Part of a new security bill, the measure is supposedly
to catch child pornographers. Once the filtering system is in place, though, it will allow the government to censor other material too.
The National Assembly has already spent two days debating the grandly titled Bill on direction and planning for the performance of domestic security, known as Loppsi II in French, with deputies voting to reject all the amendments that sought
to limit the Internet filtration provisions.
If adopted as such, the law will oblige ISPs to block the access to the sites included on a list established by the French administration without any judicial control, under the pretext of the protection of children. When the need to fight against
the dissemination of images and representations of minors according to the provisions of article 227-23 of the criminal code justifies it, the administrative authority notifies the persons mentioned at item 1 (i.e.ISPs) the Internet addresses of online
public communication services that are subject to the provisions of this article for which these persons must prevent the access without delay says article 4 of the law.
Lionel Tardy also proposes to force the administrative authority to specify to the ISPs which are the filtering techniques they can use to block paedophilic sites. The law must not resume to ordering the blocking of the access to certain Internet
sites, but indicate to ISPs what techniques they may use. The obligation they bear should be an obligation of means and for that, the means that can be put in force must be listed said the deputy.
Deputies had sought to amend the text to require blocking only of specific URLs or documents, not of entire sites, so as to reduce collateral damage, and to require that a judge review the list of blocked URLs each month to ensure that
sites were not needlessly blocked. Those amendments were, however, rejected, as was one making the filters a temporary, experimental measure until their effectiveness was proven.
Similar arguments on over-blocking were raised by Aurélien Boch from Internet users association OBEDI who explained: when an address is filtered, all the sites hosted by the same server will be filtered whether it is the site of Nouvel
Observateur or a pornographic site. He also pointed out that as the list will be secret, it will be impossible to verify which sites are filtered .
The French General Assembly has adopted a bill on December 15 to allow the Government to filter the internet without court intervention.
Article 4 of the so-called LOPPSI 2 law on guidelines and programming for the performance of internal security), referred to the blocking of child pornography sites.
But some MPs among the assembly attacked Article 4, which in effect allowed the government to filter the Internet using a blacklist issued by the Ministry of Interior, without the intervention of the judiciary. Critics of the measure argued it might also
allow the ISP-level blocking of websites considered by the authorities as undesirable, without judiciary control.
After passing through the French National Assembly, the text will go back to the Senate at the beginning of 2011.
The French Constitutional Council has released its decision1 regarding the LOPPSI bill. Judges held that article 4 of the bill, which allows the executive branch to censor the Net under the pretext of fighting child pornography, is not contrary to the
Constitution. In doing so, the constitutional court has failed to protect fundamental freedoms on the Internet, and in particular freedom of expression. Hopes lie now in European institutions, which are the only ones with the power to prohibit or at
least supervise administrative website blocking and its inherent risks of abuse.
The LOPSSI law compiled many repressive measures on vastly unrelated subjects. The Constitutional Council found itself caught by this strategy. While it did strike down some of the most shocking provisions, it left untouched those that seemed less
harmful or were proposed in the name of noble goals, in spite of having a highly detrimental impact on civil liberties, such as the ones related to the Internet.
The French citizen rights group La Quadrature reported this week that its government is entertaining an executive draft that would
give the French government the power to arbitrarily censor any content or service on the Net. According to the site, the law would grant government officials the power to cut off access to websites which harms or otherwise puts at risk
public order and security, the protection of minors, of public health, national defence, or physical persons.
News site Tech Dirt compared the order to China's infamous internet censorship, the cleverly-titled Great Firewall. We'll leave it to our readers to come up with a funny French pun for the country's own efforts.
Jeremie Zimmermann, a spokesperson for La Quadrature, criticized the proposal.
This draft executive order aims to give the government a vastly disproportionate power to censor any website or content on the Internet, said Zimmermann. It is an obvious violation of the principle of separation of powers,
and strongly harms freedom of communication online. This is an extremely disturbing drift, in direct continuity with the French government's repressive
He concluded that the order must absolutely be rejected.
Offsite Comment: France on its way to total Internet censorship?
On 15 June, 2011, website PC INpact revealed the existence of a draft executive order which would
give the French government the power to arbitrarily censor any content or service on the Net.
To implement article 18 of the law for the Digital Economy of June 21st, 2004, the French government is proposing to give to several of its ministries the power to order the censorship of online content that harms or otherwise
puts at risk public order and security, the protection of minors, of public health, national defence, or physical persons*. Websites ranging from WikiLeaks to The Pirate Bay could fall under the broad scope of the decree.
A French court has ruled that local ISPs must block access to the website, Copwatch Nord Paris I-D-F
, that shows pictures and videos of police officers arresting suspects, taunting protesters and allegedly committing acts of violence against members of ethnic minorities.
Law enforcement officials, who had denounced the site as an incitement to violence against the police, welcomed the decision.
But free speech advocates reacted with alarm, saying the ruling reflected a French tendency to restrict Internet freedoms.
This court order illustrates an obvious will by the French government to control and censor citizens' new online public sphere, said Je're'mie Zimmermann, spokesman for La Quadrature du Net, a Paris-based organization that campaigns against
restrictions on the Internet.
The police had said they were particularly concerned about portions of the site showing identifiable photos of police officers, along with personal data, including some cases in which officers are said to express far-right sympathies on social networks.
The case was then taken up by Claude Gue'ant, the French interior minister. He had asked the court to issue an order blocking only certain pages of the site, those showing the most sensitive personal information. But ISps argued that this would be
The court ordered that the site be blocked immediately.
France's National Digital Council requested in a letter to the president on 23 March voicing concern about the proposal and stressing that fundamental freedoms should not be sacrificed in order to combat cyber-crime and defend national security.
Your proposal raises several questions as regards, for example, the method of identifying the person who commits this offence, existing legislation (such as the eCommerce directive) and the fact that Internet service providers are not obliged to keep a
user's browsing history, the council's letter said. Furthermore, use of these sites by certain professions (such as journalists and university academics) and their ability to look at them regularly could raise legitimate difficulties when it comes to
enforcing this offence.
France's conservative government has unveiled new counterterrorism measures to punish those who visit extremist websites or travel to weapons-training camps abroad, in the wake of killings by an suspected Islamic extremist in southern France last month.
The measures now go to Parliament, where they may face resistance from the Socialists, who say France's legal arsenal against terrorism is already strong enough and that the proposal is a campaign ploy to boost President Nicolas Sarkozy's chances at a
Sarkozy's Cabinet gave its go-ahead to measures that would make it illegal to travel abroad to indoctrination and weapons-training camps for terrorist ends or to regularly visit websites that incite or praise deadly terrorism.
Sarkozy's government insists the measures are needed to fight the relatively new phenomenon of lone wolf terrorism by extremists who self-radicalize online via jihadist Web sites, and are hard for authorities to track.
The Cour de cassation, France's highest court of appeal, has overturned two court orders which required Google to remove copyright infringing items
and to block users from uploading these items again in future.
The court ruled that such take-down, stay-down orders contravene the e-Commerce Directive, which forbids EU Member States from imposing a general obligation on ISPs to monitor the content stored on or passing through their networks. The
orders were also found to conflict with the French Law for Trust in the Digital Economy (2004).
The French Supreme Court has ruled that Google should censor the words torrent , rapidshare and megaupload from its Instant and Autocomplete search services.
Music industry group SNEP asked the court to stop the terms from being suggested in Google's searches because, it claimed, Google was thereby facilitating piracy.
A lower court rejected the request from SNEP because it said that these links did not constitute infringement of copyright in and of themselves. However, the Supreme Court has reversed the decision, saying that the relief sought by the group was likely
to prevent or partially stop infringements.
The search firm actually already blocks piracy-related terms from Autocomplete, but on its own terms. The web giant announced back in December 2010 on one of its blogs that it was taking steps to stop copyright infringement, including blocking
search terms closely associated with piracy.
After the anti-Semitic hashtag UnBonJuif (a good Jew) made its way into the trending topics of Twitter in France last October, the Association of Jewish
Students in France (UEJF) began legal action against the site.
The UEJF also called for Twitter to implement a censorship system for users to report illegal content or hate speech. So far, this has been to no avail, as the US-headquartered Twitter is claiming to be bound only by US rather than local laws, which
would permit such hashtags under the First Amendment.
Speaking on French TV show Medias, le magazine last week, France's minister for the digital economy Fleur Pellerin acknowledged that multinational companies like Twitter, being somehow deterritorialised , raise new challenges .
Pellerin added she would like to talk directly with Twitter in order to work out a more co-operative approach to censorship. She said she would in particular like to see Twitter filtering its trending topics list.
In the meantime, the case is still with the Paris courts and the next court date will be 24 January, when a judge will rule on the case.
A French court has ordered Twitter to hand over the identities of users posting to allegedly anti-semetic Twitter hashtags or threads.
In a test case which will have widespread implications for the millions who tweet every day, the Tribunal de Grande Instance ruled it unacceptable for people to post hateful material anonymously.
This was despite lawyers for the hugely popular micro-blogging site refusing to assist detectives.
Jewish students brought the case, claiming Twitter had a moral duty to name and shame hateful posters. In October, the student bodies asked Twitter to remove a number of messages which appeared under the hashtag #unbonjuif (#agoodjew), with examples
including: #agoodjew is a dead Jew. The hashtag became the third most popular in France, with thousands attacking the religion.
Alexandre Neri, Twitter's French barrister, had told the court that Twitter data is collected and stored in the United States , namely in San Francisco, where the site is based. Ms Neri said that Twitter was accordingly subject to US law ,
adding: Should I submit myself to the law of a different country to where I work? I don't know. Ms Neri suggested that only an American judge could decide whether a US company should hand over data to the French authorities.
A Jewish student group has announced it was taking further legal action against Twitter over the supposed lack of response to a French court order to hand
over data to help identify the authors of insulting tweets.
The association is claiming the extortionate sum of 38.5 million euros ($50 million) in damages, according to the text of the summons for Twitter to appear before the civil court's criminal division.
Twitter said it was in discussions with the Jewish student group but that unfortunately they are more interested in these grand gestures than in finding an adequate international procedure to obtain the requested information. It added that the
French court had only notified it of the earlier ruling a few days ago and that they would appeal the January 24th decision.
Twitter has handed French authorities data which could identify the users behind a spate of tweets accused of being antisemitic after a long court battle begun by anti-racism campaigners.
In a rare move, Twitter announced that in response to a valid legal request it had provided the Paris prosecutor with data that may enable the identification of certain users that the vice-prosecutor believes have violated French law .
Twitter said this gesture put an end to the long legal dispute.
In one of the first rulings of its kind, a French court last month ordered Google to remove links to defamatory information from its search results globally .
Up to now, most rulings have limited themselves to the local top level domain -- such as Google.fr. However, the decision of the High Court in Paris was that this would be insufficient because even in France users can search using the Google.com domain.
If Google does not comply, it will face daily fines of 1,000 euros.
A French MP has started the ball rolling on internet censorship on the grounds that children need to be protected from X-rated sites.
MP Jean-Jacques Candelier of the Democratic and Republican Left said that he'd had enough of the scourge of freely available online pornography. He wrote to Laurence Rossignol, the Secretary of State for the Family, Elderly People and Adult Care,
asking for the government to introduce an access code in France, meaning that adults who want to see pornographic content online must manually opt-in to gain entry.
Failing that, Candelier suggested a default blocking of all pornography online, a move he said was inspired by David Cameron's controversial internet filters that came into effect in the UK last year.
The MP told France TV Info:
I don't condemn the existence of these sites, but they have to be reserved for adults. We need to put in place a system of access codes that will be asked for every time someone tries to connect to these sites,
Three jewsih organisations in France say they are planning legal action against Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for failing to remove posts that the gorups consider to be hate speech
The French Jewish Students Union (UEJF), SOS Racisme and SOS Homophobie say they found 586 posts between 31 March and 10 May that they claim to be offensive. But they claim only a small percentage was taken down.
French law states that racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic content must be removed from websites.
YouTube's side of the argument can be inferred from deciding that the posts did not break their rule:
But from YouTube's side of the argument, they decided not to remove the content when tested against their rules that YouTube does not support content which:
Promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status or sexual orientation/gender identity, or whose primary purpose is inciting hatred on the basis of
these core characteristics.
Facebook also decided that the posts did not break their rules and added also that it does allow:
Clear attempts at humour or satire that might otherwise be considered a possible threat or attack.
Twitter' also decided that complained about posts did not transgress their rules.
The High Court of Paris has decided there's a limit to France's unpopular anti-copying regime: Google and Bing can't be required to
block the word torrent from their search results just because BitTorrent is sometimes used for piracy.
The case was brought by the Syndicat National de l'Údition Phonographique, France's record industry association, nominally on behalf of several artists. SNEP wanted to use Article L336-2 of France's intellectual property law to force Google and Microsoft
to delete searches that included both 'torrent' and any of the artists' names.
The High Court in Paris didn't think filtering torrent in all of France, the Wallis and Futuna islands, New Caledonia and the French Southern and Antarctic territories was appropriate.
In a case against Google, the court found that SNEP was acting on behalf of only three artists, rather than for all of its members:
The case would not protect the interests of the entire profession, but ensure the protection of individual interests of members who produce these three artists.
In a case against Microsoft, the court stated the requests made by SNEP were too broad:
They do not concern an identified site, but all sites accessed by the requested terms, regardless of the identification and even determining the content of the site ... The measures sought are similar to general surveillance measure and could cause the
blocking of legitimate sites.
The judgements award costs against SNEP in both cases.
France is considering appointing an official internet ombudsman to investigate complaints about online material in order to
prevent excessive censorship and preserve free speech. A bill establishing a content qualification assessment procedure has been tabled in the French senate.
Dan Shefets, a Danish lawyer explained one of the issues targeted by the bill:
ISPs face both penal and civil liability as soon as they are made aware of allegedly illicit content. One consequence of such liability is that smaller companies take down such content for fear of later sanctions.
The aim is to provide a simple procedure that will support firms operating online who are uncertain of their legal liabilities and to prevent over-zealous removal or censorship of material merely because it is the subject of a complaint. It could be
copied by other European jurisdictions.
The idea is that a rapid response from the internet ombudsman would either order the material to be taken down or allow it to remain. As long as ISPs complied with the rulings, they would not face any fine or punishment.
French authorities ordered the blockage or removal of more than 2,700 websites in 2016, Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux announced. He said
that his government has requested blocks for 834 websites and that 1,929 more be pulled from search engines' results as part of the fight against child pornographic and terrorist content. He said:
To face an extremely serious terror threat, we've given ourselves unprecedented means to reinforce the efficacy of our actions.
Perhaps to obscure censorship details, Le Roux unhelpfully didn't detail any stats on what type of websites were blocked.
French authorities can block sites without a judge's order under a 2011 law that was brought into effect in after jihadist attacks killed 17 people at a satirical magazine and a kosher supermarket.