France criminalizes citizens who visit terrorist and hate Web sites

Posted in: Legal & Security at 24/03/2012 21:17

A 32-hour standoff between a French SWAT team and 23-year-old Mohamed Merah -- who was wanted for killing three French paratroopers, three Jewish schoolchildren, and a rabbi -- ended today with a dramatic firefight and the death of Merah who claimed to be affiliated with al-Qaeda, according to the Associated Press.

Shortly after the confrontation, Reuters reports, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced he was making it illegal for citizens to visit Web sites that encourage terrorism or hate crimes.

Also see:

French President Sarkozy Sees Opportunity for Censorship, Seizes It
In the wake of a horrific rampage, in which Mohamed Merah (now dead after a 32-hour standoff with police) reportedly murdered three French soldiers, three young Jewish schoolchildren, and a rabbi, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has begun calling for criminal penalties for citizens who visit web sites that advocate for terror or hate. "From now on, any person who habitually consults Web sites that advocate terrorism or that call for hatred and violence will be criminally punished," Sarkozy was reported as saying.

Apart from the obvious flaws in Sarkozy's plan--users, can, of course, use anonymizing tools to view the material or simply access it from a variety of locations to avoid appearing as "habitual" viewers--there are numerous other reasons to be concerned about criminalizing access to information.

Threat from use of Internet surveillance to combat terrorism
Reporters Without Borders is worried by President Nicolas Sarkozy's proposal yesterday that "any person who habitually consults websites that advocate terrorism or call for hatred and violence" should be criminally punished.

"We do not in any way defend violent or terrorist websites, but we think that the president's statement was made in the heat of the moment and went after the wrong target by focusing on the Internet," Reporters Without Borders said.,42180.html

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