French Government Looking To Set Up The Great Firewall Of France?

from the gov't-censorship dept

We’ve seen our fair share of bad legal rulings come out of France over the years (remember when they declared Yahoo a war criminal? And, of course, we’re all familiar with France’s ridiculous three strikes “Hadopi” law, that will kick people off the internet based on accusations (not convictions), and which apparently doesn’t apply to the government itself, which has been caught infringing on the intellectual property of others multiple times. But, apparently, that was all just the warmup for a law that will turn France into the China of the west when it comes to Internet censorship and ISP secondary liability.

Kevin Donovan points us to a report noting that a bill cruising through the French Parliament would massively increase state-backed internet censorship and surveillance with a bill called Loppsi 2. Beyond requiring ISPs to completely block access to a list of sites the government doesn’t like, it would also:

“[make] it the responsibility of each Internet service provider to ensure that users don’t have access to unsuitable content.”

That’s the kind of secondary liability for ISPs that is used in China to create the “Great Firewall” of censorship, and it’s the same sort of thing that is currently being pushed in ACTA negotiations by certain parties as well.

But, that’s not all. Loppsi 2 also would allow for massive government surveillance via trojan horse applications that would let the government spy on computer usage:

Police and security forces would be able to use clandestinely installed software, known in the jargon as a “Trojan horse,” to spy on private computers. Remote access to private computers would be made possible under the supervision of a judge.

So why is France doing this? From the article linked above, the speculation is that it’s a really base political ploy by president Nicolas Sarkozy, worried about his and his party’s poll ratings, and looking to be seen as a “tough on crime” and “for the children” kind of candidate:

In the face of a rampant economic crisis, growing unemployment, a devastatingly large budget deficit and various political scandals, Sarkozy is pulling out a presidential trump card. He is hoping that fear of criminals will convince voters to come to the polling booths.

In that respect, there is no more suitable issue than child pornography on the Internet and the hunt for pedophile criminals whose only desire is to seduce innocents via their home computers. According to that argument, it is necessary to impose controls on the digital world and introduce state surveillance, so that a pro-active Big Brother can fight the cyber world’s sexual deviants who are, in all likelihood, lurking on Facebook or Twitter.

Please tell me French citizens are smart enough not to fall for something like that. In other places, proposing such strict censorship and surveillance legislation has been known to backfire, and already it does look like Sarkozy’s political opponents are screaming in protest over this. Taking away people’s rights over a bogus “but think of the children” scare, seems like the kind of old school political tactics that hopefully will start to backfire more often than succeed as people realize that they’re being lied to.

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Comments on “French Government Looking To Set Up The Great Firewall Of France?”

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Alan Gerow (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: What can be done?

Well considering that the world’s largest hardware vendors have a hell of a time keeping their hardware working with Linux by providing native drivers … I doubt the French programmers are going to worry about creating Windows, Mac AND Linux versions of their trojan horse. So, in essence to a large part of the surveillance issue Linux is a very valid answer.

And Ubuntu totally cleared away this bad case of athlete’s foot I got last month. Worked like a charm!¡

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: What can be done?

“Any suggestions as to how I can help detour this legislation, or on a technical level detour the restrictions would be welcome.”

Please, it’s easy. All you have to do to completely undermine and nullify this attempted legislation is {content deleted at the request of the Consitutional Council of France].

See? Problem solved!

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: What can be done?

Actually most is being proposed is Illegal under EU law. So dont expect it to get to far. In the short run you might see it implemented, slowly it will be struck down. Since this is not china but a free nation (kind of) expect secondary Liability to be lobbied against by every corporation it affects, expect the whole spying on citizens to be struck down, and expect the site blacklist to be ineffective (the internet routes around obstructions, the big problems of giving low level access of the internet – telecom system to the citizens).

mistyrouge says:

Re: What can be done?

Hello all! As I am a french citizen and resident I will try to answer your comments in order to explain you how the situation is in france and why it’s far worst than you imagine.

Well for the trojan linux is a good solution as our governement seamed to have never heard about it (we still use windows nt for our navy…).

In order to detour the firewall you just have to use tor and even easier a encrypted foreign proxy connexion. They will not filter this kind of traffic.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Smart citizens?

“French citizens aren’t that much smarter than American citizens, are they?”

They may be, but you’d never know it. The common French citizen appears to be focused mainly on cheese and what’s for dinner.

Huh, they’re like a really skinny, fashionable version of Wisconsin. How strange….

Bob says:

Re: Smart citizens?

The problem is not that we (French people) are stupid or not, the problem is that the French parlement and the people voting for ruling party are mainly old people, who know next to nothing about the Internet. Just need good old FUD to do the job : pedo, negationnism, nazism, (local) terrorism, children exchanging nude pic through network, alcohol and tobacco advertisement, money games online, racism, homophobia…
They don’t even understand that the censorhip they want will cost a lot of money (due to the framework of the french network) and will be easily bypassed.

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Truly a monument to stupidity....

I realize that gross exploitation and endangerment of children is a great moral platform on which to build mechanisms of tyranny, but WOW. These guys are not pussy footing around like Australia… first pass and they want a trojan on every system in addition to mandated filtering???

They are illustrating a tyrant’s and hacker’s paradise in Loppsi. I do hope the French can tear themselves away from their regular apathy towards government to stop this insanity early.

mistyrouge says:

Re: Truly a monument to stupidity....

“I do hope the French can tear themselves away from their regular apathy towards government to stop this insanity early.”

It’s a shame but we can’t !

The main reason is that only people that look for informations specialised web sites are aware of the details of those laws (dadvsi, hadopi, loppsi2). The main TV channels just told that the laws were woted without explaining what were those laws. Moreover they are lying. For example the main channel (TF1) show images of the whole parliament voting those law whereas there were not that much people (less than 30 persons for hadopi). That’s why the average french citizen doesn’t even know our governement is setting up a firewall.

Dave says:

Re: In typical French fashion...

Agreed Chris.. Avoiding laws and finding workarounds is a typicall French sport. Should that stupid Loppsi thing be voted, we’ll all spend whatever time it takes to break it, and will post those workarounds on all blogs and forums!

@Dark Helmet : dont worry, not only do we have cheese and wine, but history shows we also have a brain and know how to use it..

senshikaze (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re; What can be done?

actually, i was thinking the French revolution then the subsequent (and short lived) First French Republic, followed closely by the First French Empire led by Emperor Napoleon the First.

WWII is too easy. and besides, we didn’t do much liberating then. We were all about the getting back at Hitler for that god awful mustache.

cybearDJM (profile) says:

Big Brother strikes back...

Hello from France,
Well, the law’s not cruising around anymore… it was adopted by the French Lower House and passed 312 vs 214…
France is fighting hard to be worse than Australia 😉
The main problem is the request to control the internet through ISPs : pornography/pedophilia 1st, and then all forms of content (such as music, videos…) as our “little emperor” wants to be seen as the protector of the Arts…

I have to quit now… Big Brother is watching us…


DonRico (user link) says:

We ARE fighting

Hi Mike,
I’m glad you mention Hadopi and Loppsi in TechDirt. We need more coverage because French media don’t do their job.
Most of the French don’t even know about these laws simply because they don’t hear about them in the news.
Fortunately, a bunch of law savvy Internet users and free software enthusiasts are making a fuss and fighting against theses bills.
Here are some of the main groups or websites working their ass off to inform people, defend freedom and net neutrality :

anon says:

France ≠ liberty

> Please tell me French citizens are smart enough not to fall for something like that.
Being a french citizen myself, I disagree with this.
Normal people just watch TF1 (french equivalent of Fox news) and don’t really care about anything.
But other people like me do care about that (see DonRico message for that).

I have to say that the medias are quite silent when it comes to dirty laws…

Nina Paley (profile) says:

worse laws = greater resistance

The only good thing I can see about France’s godawful culture laws – possibly the worst in the “Western World” – are that they’re spawning a lively resistance movement in that country. I was quite heartened at the French Free Culture events I attended last year. They seem to have a much clearer and better vision of Free Culture there than in the US, actually distinguishing between free and un-free CC licenses. Vive la Resistance!

Josef says:

It works in the US

I’m surprised the French didn’t just use “The Terrorists are on the Internet”

It’s worked in the US for a decade now. Any time you want to use take away or just stomp on the rights of the citizens, you just claim that terrorism will win if those rights aren’t revoked or ignored.

It’s still going strong. The French should be learning more from the US.

Louis (profile) says:

Biggest boom for Pedophiles!

This will be the biggest bonanza for all kind of pedophiles. With all those computers infected with the trojan hourse software, how long before the “criminal element” finds a way to take control of those webcams and tape all those kids with computers in their rooms? Just think, how many times have you accessed your computer while not fully dressed? What if someone could watch and tape all those times you were less than pristine? Now, just think about teenagers, and what they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms. Something tells me that the supply market of kiddy porn from France will just explode.

leo says:

checking from France

Hi, French here. As sad as it is, I don’t see this law not passing, because you know IT’S FOR THE CHILDREN so really few people will disagree with it. S even if we vote for new people to be elected, this law might very well stay…

The thing is, as far as I’ve heard, it’s really only for criminal purpose, and only pedopornographic content would be blocked. What most people (including me) fear is that once the filtering is made possible, the govt wil use it to block more and more things they don’t like.

As for the trojan part, it seems that it’s only when you already have a police investigation on you, they can come to your home to install it. So it will concern only a very small population. Of course again, the risks of abuse are worrying…

Frederic says:

It's done!

Paris, March 10th, 2011 ? The French Constitutional Council has released its decision1 regarding the LOPPSI bill. Judges held that article 4 of the bill, which allows the executive branch to censor the Net under the pretext of fighting child pornography, is not contrary to the Constitution. In doing so, the constitutional court has failed to protect fundamental freedoms on the Internet, and in particular freedom of expression. Hopes lie now in European institutions, which are the only ones with the power to prohibit or at least supervise administrative website blocking and its inherent risks of abuse.

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