French government considers Internet censorship bill

Last month U.S. Senators attempted to pass the “PROTECT IP” bill, which aimed to cut down Internet-based copyright infringement and piracy. However, the means by which the law would combat cyber crimes – the censorship of search engines – came under fire. Unsurprisingly, Google took exception to the law that many speculated could lead to arbitrary web censorship. Erik Schmidt, the company’s Executive Chairman, declared at a conference in London that the search engine giant would fight against any law that would “whack off the DNS.”

While the bill is presently on hold, another country is now discussing how to best police its internet.


The French citizen rights group La Quadrature reported this week via PC INpact 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.


Jérémie 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 Internet-related policies.”

He concluded that the order “must absolutely be rejected.”


The French government is no stranger to fighting internet piracy with any means necessary. Three weeks ago, French file-sharing site Liberty Land was shut down by law enforcement authorities and the three men who operated it were arrested. In 2010, an anti-piracy law was passed in the country which promised steep fines or online bans for violators.

Internet censorship has been a hot-button topic for some time, and that trend is unlikely to reverse. It’ll be interesting to see how governments around the world handle (or bungle) the vitally important subject of web censorship; how France deals with it could potentially pave the way for other countries. (via TechDirt)

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