France Responds to the Violent Suppression of Free Speech by – Suppressing Free Speech Online

9753846_67b1c06497_n[1]If there were a prize for totally missing the point, the government of France just took home the trophy.

VentureBeat reports that  France has responded to last month's terrorist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices by issuing a new decree:

Under terms of a new decree adopted by the French government, Internet service providers must block any websites that promote terrorism or child pornography within 24 hours of receiving an official notification.

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The new rules that were adopted last week (a translation of the decree can be read here) give the French government and the French National Police the right to submit requests to ISPs regarding any content they decide is related to child pornography or terrorism that can viewed by users in France. ISPs have 24 hours to take action and can request that the French government pay them for any costs that result.

However, the address of the sites will remain active and will display text that explains the site was blocked due to the government’s request.

Folks, I know that the Voltaire quote "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it" is apocryphal, but that doesn't mean it's not good principle to maintain, even in these troubled times.

The government of France has forgotten that one doesn't respond to the violent suppression of speech by silencing those you disagree with. It sends the mixed message that while France condemns the actions last month, it is perfectly okay with the motives.

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What's more, the new decree is also drawing legal criticism in France from La Quadrature du Net, a French organization that advocates against digital censorship. This organization has vowed to take to the courts to get the decree overturned.

"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," said Felix Tréguer, founding member of La Quadrature du Net, in a statement.

Tréguer goes on to point out that this is not just censorship, but also ineffective censorship: "Website blocking is ineffective since it is easily circumvented. 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."

As anyone who knows how to use a proxy or VPN to get around an ISP-level or territorial block can tell you, he's not wrong.

images by opensourcewayIsaacMao

About Nate Hoffelder (11594 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

3 Comments on France Responds to the Violent Suppression of Free Speech by – Suppressing Free Speech Online

  1. “Under terms of a new decree adopted by the French government, Internet service providers must block any websites that promote terrorism or child pornography within 24 hours of receiving an official notification.”: I wasn’t aware that child pornography was protected by the first amendment in the USA*… (Ah these Americans. Always ready to lecture).

    *of course it’s not. These sites do get blocked in the US, rightfully so

  2. “The government of France has forgotten that one doesn’t respond to the violent suppression of speech by silencing those you disagree with.”

    So child pornography and killing people is a matter of opinion for you?

    I think YOU are the one who is missing the point: France doesn’t want to block websites that disagree with their politic, they want to block websites that promote terrorism and child abuse. You won’t be blocked for saying you hate France, but you will if you encourage people to kill each other. How is that shocking to you?

    By the way, La quadrature du Net’s objection comes from “the risk of over-blocking perfectly lawful content, especially with the blocking technique retained by the Government” (= blocking websites with no need of court order).

    • “So child pornography and killing people is a matter of opinion for you?”

      No, but I do think bundling in child porn was a deliberate red herring which was intended to confuse the issue, so I’m ignoring it. I also recognize that there is a difference between acts of terrorism and talking about acts of terrorism. This decree is an ineffective response to the latter while not at all affecting the former.

      This decree has all the hallmarks of a government that wants to be seen Doing Something but cares less about whether the action is effective. We’ve seen this a lot with US politicians, so don’t feel like I’m singling out France.

      And I do understand La quadrature’s objection; the UK went down that exact path.

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