Law that allows blockade of offending sites without a court order criticised by free-speech groups as circumventing judicial power
France has introduced a new law that allows government agencies to order the blocking of websites that advocate acts of terrorism or contain images of child abuse.
The legislation was brought in by revisions to 2011’s Loppsi Act, and an anti-terror bill passed by the French senate in October, but can now be used by the general directorate of the police’s cybercrime unit to force French internet service providers to block sites within 24 hours, without a court order.
Sites that are blocked will redirect to a page from the interior ministry describing why the action was taken. The sites will be checked quarterly to make sure they continue to display the proscribed content and that the block is still appropriate.
Costs incurred by the ISPs as part of the block can be recovered from the French government, while sites can appeal if they have sufficient grounds to do so.
The bill was criticised by Felix Tréguer, founding member of La Quadrature du Net free-speech 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.”
Tréguer said: “Website blocking is ineffective since it is easily circumvented. It is also disproportionate because of the risk of over-blocking perfectly lawful content.”
Internet filters block websites of sex abuse charities
The UK also blocks sites for similar reasons, under an agreement between ISPs and government based upon the system used to keep child abuse material off the web.
Media companies can also force the closure of sites that infringe on their copyright via ISPs in the UK, but only through the use of court orders. Similar moves in the Netherlands, including that of the notorious torrent site the Pirate Bay, were ruled as ineffective by a Dutch court.
Source: The Guardian