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Internet censorship in France


Internet censorship in France

There is very little Internet censorship in France, apart from limited filtering of child pornography and Web sites that promote terrorism or racial hatred, and attempts to protect copyright.


  • Overview 1
  • LICRA vs. Yahoo 2
  • Hadopi laws 3
  • June 2011: Draft executive order implementing the Law for Trust in the Digital Economy 4
  • October 2011: Cop-watching site blocked 5
  • Twitter case 6
  • 7 Pierre-sur-Haute article deletion
  • Blocking of 16 streaming websites in November 2013 8
  • Blocking of ten websites in March 2015 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11


France continues to promote freedom of the press and speech online by allowing unfiltered access to most content, apart from limited filtering of child pornography and web sites that promote terrorism, or racial violence and hatred. The French government has undertaken numerous measures to protect the rights of Internet users, including the passage of the Loi pour la Confiance dans l’Économie Numérique (LCEN, Law for Trust in the Digital Economy) in 2004. However, the passage of a new copyright law threatening to ban users from the Internet upon their third violation has drawn much criticism from privacy advocates as well as the European Union (EU) parliament.[1]

In November 2010, France was classified by the OpenNet Initiative as showing no evidence of Internet filtering in any of the four areas monitored (political, social, conflict/security, and Internet tools)[1]

However, with the implementation of the "three-strikes" legislation and a law providing for the administrative filtering of the web and the defense of a "civilized" Internet, 2010 was a difficult year for Internet freedom in France. The offices of several online media firms and their journalists were targeted for break-ins and court summons and pressured to identify their sources. As a result, France has been added to Reporters Without Borders list of "Countries Under Surveillance".[2]

Recent Freedom House' Freedom on the Net 2013 report highlighted the fact that controversial clauses within the HADOPI, LOPPSI 2, and LCEN laws provoked the ire of internet advocates in the country, mainly over fears of disproportionate punishments for copyright violators, overreaching administrative censorship, and threats to privacy. However, Freedom House ranks France amongst the top 6 countries for Internet freedom.[3]

LICRA vs. Yahoo

In 2000, French courts demanded Yahoo! block Nazi material in the case LICRA vs. Yahoo.[4] In 2001, a U.S. District Court Judge held that Yahoo cannot be forced to comply with French laws against the expression of pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic views, because doing so would violate its right to free expression under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.[5] In 2006, a U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the District Court, finding either a lack of jurisdiction or an inability to enforce its order in France[6] and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal.[7]

Hadopi laws

The Hadopi law, enacted in 2009, allows disconnecting from the Internet users that have been caught illegally downloading copyrighted content, or failing to secure their system against such illegal downloads; as of August 2009, this law is to be supplemented by a Hadopi2 law. The LOPPSI 2 law, brought before Parliament in 2009, will authorize a blacklist of sites providing child pornography, established by the Ministry of the Interior, which Internet service providers will have to block. The Loppsi "Bill on direction and planning for the performance of domestic security" is a far-reaching security bill that seeks to modernise Internet laws, criminalising online identity theft, allowing police to tap Internet connections as well as phone lines during investigations and targeting child pornography by ordering ISPs to filter Internet connections.

In 2010, French parliament opposed all the amendments seeking to minimise the use of filtering Internet sites. This move has stirred controversy throughout French society, as the Internet filtering intended to catch child pornographers could also be extended to censor other material.[8]

Critics also warn that filtering URLs will have no effect, as distributors of child pornography and other materials are already using encrypted peer-to-peer systems to deliver their wares.[9]

In 2011 the Constitutional Council of France validated Article 4 of the LOPPSI 2 law, thereby allowing filtering the Internet without any justice decision.[10][11][12] The filtered sites blacklist being under the control of an administrative authority depending directly from the Ministry of the Interior without any independent monitoring.

On 21 April 2011, the Hadopi announced they planned integrating a spyware called "securization software" in the French Internet Service Providers provided modem-routers with the explicit goal of tracking any communication including private correspondence and instant messengers exchanges.[13][14][15]

June 2011: Draft executive order implementing the Law for Trust in the Digital Economy

A June 2011 draft executive order implementing Article 18[16] of the Law for Trust in the Digital Economy (LCEN) would give several French government ministries[17] the power to restrict online content “in case of violation, or where there is a serious risk of violation, of the maintenance of public order, the protection of minors, the protection of public health, the preservation of interests of the national defense, or the protection of physical persons.”[18] According to Félix Tréguer, a Policy and Legal Analyst for the digital rights advocacy group La Quadrature du Net, this is "a censorship power over the Internet that is probably unrivaled in the democratic world."[19] In response to criticism, on 23 June 2011 the minister for the Industry and the Digital economy, Éric Besson, announced that the Government would rewrite the order, possibly calling for a judge to review the legality of the content and the proportionality of the measures to be taken. Any executive order has to be approved by the French Council of State, which will have to decide whether Internet censorship authorization can be extended to such an extent by a mere executive order. In 2013, the Parliament eventually repelled the legislative provision on which the decree was based.[20]

October 2011: Cop-watching site blocked

On 14 October 2011 a French court ordered French Internet service providers to block the Copwatch Nord Paris I-D-F website.[21] The website shows pictures and videos of police officers arresting suspects, taunting protesters and allegedly committing acts of violence against members of ethnic minorities. The police said they were particularly concerned about portions of the site showing identifiable photos of police officers, along with personal data, that could lead to violence against the local authorities. However, free speech advocates reacted with alarm. “This court order illustrates an obvious will by the French government to control and censor citizens’ new online public sphere,” said Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesman for

  1. ^ a b "ONI Country Profile: France", OpenNet Initiative, 26 November 2010
  2. ^ "Countries under surveillance: France", Reporters Without Borders, March 2011
  3. ^ "Freedom on the Net 2013 - France", Jean-Loup Richet, Freedom House, October 2013
  4. ^ "Yahoo! loses Nazi auction case",, 20 November 2000
  5. ^ "Judge Dismisses French Case Against Yahoo", Stephen Lawson, IDG News, PCWorld, 9 November 2001
  6. ^ "9th Circuit En Banc Panel Rules Against Yahoo in French Internet Censorship Case", Tech Law Journal, 12 January 2006
  7. ^ "Supreme Court won't hear Yahoo! Nazi auctions case", from the international law firm Pinsent Masons, 31 May 2006
  8. ^ "French Parliament approves Net censorship".  
  9. ^ "France to vote on Internet censorship". Computerworld UK. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  10. ^ "French Constitutional Council Validates Internet Censorship", 10 March 2011, La Quadrature du Net, Paris
  11. ^ (The administrative filtering of the sites paedophiles authorized)"Le filtrage administratif des sites pédophiles autorisé", Emmanuel Berretta, Le, 3 March 2011
  12. ^ (Loppsi 2: "sages" validate the blocking of the child pornography sites)"Loppsi 2 : les "sages" valident le blocage des sites pédo-pornographiques",, 11 March 2011
  13. ^ (Hadopi: the security could penetrate the box)"Hadopi : la sécurisation pourrait pénétrer la box", GNT Media, 21 April 2011
  14. ^ (Filtering in the boxes ADSL and invasion of privacy with the program of l'Hadopi)"Filtrage dans les box ADSL et atteinte à la vie privée au programme de l'Hadopi", Guillaume Champeau, Numerama Magazine, 20 April 2011
  15. ^ (Means of security: Hadopi launches a new consultation)"Moyens de sécurisation : la Hadopi lance une nouvelle consultation", Christophe Auffray, ZDNet France, 20 April 2011
  16. ^ (French) "Article 18, Loi n°2004-575 du 21 juin 2004 pour la confiance dans l'économie numérique, modifié par Loi n°2007-297 du 5 mars 2007", version consolidée au 19 mai 2011 ("Act No. 2004-575 of 21 June 2004 on confidence in the digital economy, amended by Act No. 2007-297 of March 5, 2007", consolidated version 19 May 2011) (English translation)
  17. ^ The Ministries of Defense, of Justice, of the Interior, of the Economy, of Communication, of Health, of the Digital Economy, and the National Authority for the Defense of Information Systems
  18. ^ "French Government Plans to Extend Internet Censorship", Simon Columbus, OpenNet Initiative, 21 June 2011
  19. ^ "France on its way to total Internet censorship?", Félix Tréguer, Index on Censorship, 27 June 2011
  20. ^ (French)Le filtrage administratif du web supprimé par l'Assemblée (in French), 28 June, 2013, Numerama.
  21. ^ (French) Copwatch Nord-Paris I-D-F, website, accessed 17 October 2011
  22. ^ "Court Orders French Cop-Watching Site Blocked", Eric Pfanner, Herald-Tribune, 16 October 2011
  23. ^ Pfanner, Eric; Somini Sengupta (24 January 2013). "In a French Case, a Battle to Unmask Twitter Users". New York Times. Retrieved 26 January 2013. 
  24. ^ "French court rules on hate tweets".  
  25. ^ Marchive, Valéry. "Twitter ordered to give up details of racist tweeters". ZDNet. Retrieved 26 January 2013. 
  26. ^ "French secret service accused of censorship over WorldHeritage page", Kim Willsher, The Guardian, 7 April 2013.
  27. ^ Geuss, Megan. "WorldHeritage editor allegedly forced by French intelligence to delete “classified” entry". Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  28. ^ "Communiqué from the Wikimedia Foundation" (in French). April 6, 2013. 
  29. ^ French Courts Ordered to Block and Delist 16 Streaming Websites, White & Case]
  30. ^ Cinq sites web projihad bloqués de l’Intérieur,]


See also

On March 16, the interior ministry announced that French ISPs would have to censor the five pro-jihadist websites,,, and in addition to five pedophile websites in the next 24 hours.[30]

Blocking of ten websites in March 2015

On 28 November 2013, the civil court of first instance of Paris ordered French internet service providers to block 16 video streaming websites for copyright infringement:,,,,,,,,,,,,,, and[29]

Blocking of 16 streaming websites in November 2013

The French Intelligence Agency DCRI contacted the Wikimedia Foundation, who refused to remove a French WorldHeritage article about the Military radio station of Pierre-sur-Haute because the article only contained publicly available information, in accordance with WorldHeritage's verifiability policy. In April 2013 DCRI forced the deletion of the article when it summoned a volunteer with administrator's access to the French language WorldHeritage and ordered him to take down the article that had been online since 2009. DCRI claimed the article contained classified military information and broke French law. The volunteer, who had no connection with the article, explained "that's not how WorldHeritage works" and told them he had no right to interfere with editorial content, but was told he would be held in custody and charged if he failed to comply. The article was subsequently restored by a Swiss WorldHeritage contributor. The article became the most viewed page on the French WorldHeritage as of April 6, 2013. Christophe Henner, vice-president of Wikimedia France, said "if the DCRI comes up with the necessary legal papers we will take down the page. We have absolutely no problem with that and have made it a point of honour to respect legal injunctions; it's the method the DCRI used that is shocking."[26][27] The Wikimedia Foundation issued a communiqué in response.[28]

Pierre-sur-Haute article deletion

Following the posting of an antisemitic and racists posts by anonymous users, Twitter removed those posts from its service. Lawsuits were filed by the Union of Jewish Students (UEJF), a French advocacy group and, on 24 January 2013, Judge Anne-Marie Sauteraud ordered Twitter to divulge the Personally identifiable information about the user who posted the antisemitic post, charging that the posts violated French laws against hate speech. Twitter responded by saying that it was "reviewing its options" regarding the French charges. Twitter was given two weeks to comply with the court order before daily fines of €1,000 (about US$1,300) would be assessed. Issues over jurisdiction arise, because Twitter has no offices nor employees within France, so it is unclear how a French court could sanction Twitter.[23][24][25]

Twitter case


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