France issues decree allowing government to ban websites

9 Feb 2015

French President Francois Hollande

The French government can now block ISPs suspected of advocating terrorism or hosting paedophila-related content, without a court order.

A decree has been passed, signed by French President Francois Hollande, that allows the government to bypass the legal pillar of the French ruling system and just ban ISPs as it deems fit – a move not everybody is happy with.

Under the decree, a department in the country’s police force – the General Directorate of the National Police and its cybercrimes unit – will decide which sites the state requests to be taken down.

ISPs then have a day to comply with the requests, and can even charge the state for undue expenses incurred by playing ball.

No flaw in this argument. Not at all. Nope.

While down, anyone who visits one of these sites will instead discover a message from the Ministry of the Interior, while every quarter the sites will be reviewed before potentially coming back online.

This all means that once down, the content is gone from the internet. Because that’s how the internet works. You remove something, and it’s gone. Completely, unavailable anywhere. Totally. Done.

Indeed Bernard Cazeneuve, the French Interior Minister, feels this move will help stem the tide of young, disengaged French nationals resorting to extreme acts of terrorism, such as the grim scenes in Paris in January.

“Today, 90pc of those who swing toward terrorist activities within the European Union do so after visiting the internet,” he said last week, before adding that to fight this problem France must “regulate” the internet.

Critics of the decree include La Quadrature du Net, a digital rights group in France, which spots a flaw in the logic behind the move. That flaw being: internet.

Easily circumvented

“Website blocking is ineffective since it is easily circumvented,” pointed out Felix Tréguer, a member of the group.

“With this decree establishing the administrative censorship for internet content, France once again circumvents the judicial power, betraying the separation of powers in limiting what is the first freedom of all in a democracy – freedom of speech.

“It is also disproportionate because of the risk of over-blocking perfectly lawful content, especially with the blocking technique retained by the Government. The measure only gives the illusion that the State is acting for our safety, while going one step further in undermining fundamental rights online.”

French President Francois Hollande image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic