The French Government recently adopted a decree which aims to crack down on sites distributing child pornography as well as sites supporting terrorism. Under the terms of this decree, ISPs will have 24 hours after receiving notification from law enforcement to block the offending sites. A law was passed by the French parliament in October of 2014 which granted the French Government the power to block websites. This decree is the first implementation of that power by the administration.
The decree offers no judicial oversight into this process at all; a court order is not required to issue a block request. It is entirely up to the French Government and The French National Police to decide which sites should be blocked. While the stated purpose of the decree is to block child pornography and terrorist supporting sites, there is a danger that the administration may stretch the meaning of terrorism to justify blocking sites that are critical of the government or spreading a message the government does not approve of.
La Quadrature du Net, a French organization opposed to internet censorship, was among the first to criticize this decree, and had previously criticized the law on which the decree is based. Felix Tréguer, a founding member of La Quadrature du Net, had this to say about the law:
“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. 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. We must now bring this decree before the French Council of State to get it overturned.”
Do you think this decree is a perfectly reasonable course of action for the French Government to take to fight terrorism, or does it go too far in censoring content on the internet? Leave your comments below.