Sarkozy Seeks To Criminalize 'Habitually Visiting' Websites About Violence

from the thought-police dept

Wizz points us to a speech that French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently gave in response to the death of the suspect in the Toulouse murders after the police shot him as he tried to escape, when they raided his apartment after a 32-hour standoff. As part of the speech, Sarkozy decided to use it as an opportunity to push for more anti-internet legislation, including a plan to criminalize visiting certain websites too often. Here’s the video in French, with his comments coming around 2:20.

Translating the key line, he says:

Anyone who habitually visits Internet sites that advocate terrorism or carrying calls for hate or violence will be punished under criminal law.

It appears that there is already a law in France that similarly makes it a criminal offense to “habitually” visit child porn sites, and this is a push to expand that same law to terrorism, hate and violence sites (original French). Of course, there are all sorts of problems with this. Obviously, accessing child porn is a strict liability kind of thing, where it’s clearly illegal. Merely reading about terrorism, hate or violence is not.

Also, there’s a question of how do you know if someone “habitually” visits such sites, raising fears that Sarkozy wants to implement a pretty broad deep packet inspection spying system to make this work. This has, quite reasonably, raised significant concerns among human rights/free speech activists (original French) about just what Sarkozy is actually planning. Others point out that such a law almost certainly wouldn’t pass French constitutional scrutiny.

Either way, just the idea is quite a dangerous leap. Criminalizing the visiting of websites because they contain information? If the content itself is illegal, go after those who create the website. Going after people for reading it reaches towards the level of establishing thought police. It also seems to greatly overestimate (as many politicians do) the power of a simple website to convince people of certain things. We see the same thing in the US with Senator Lieberman’s grandstanding against terrorist content, which he wants banned and blocked in the US as well. It seems to assume that people are all complete suckers who, as soon as they read a terrorist pitch, automatically become terrorists. In reality, all they’re really doing is legitimizing much of this ridiculous content, by suggesting that it really is “dangerous” and somehow must be criminalized.

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Comments on “Sarkozy Seeks To Criminalize 'Habitually Visiting' Websites About Violence”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“If we hide it, it didn’t happen.”

This is exactly why I think their attitude towards censoring child pornography sites is a bad now. Even if you hide it from others to see it, it still happens, and those making the sites will still do it.

Go after those making those sites and the child pornography. Taking down the site will do nothing to stop that, and these days it’s used just as an excuse to use the same method for copyright infringement sites or “terrorist sites”…or “propaganda sites”.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t ‘habitually visit’ these sites about violence, I just keep on finding links to it whenever I do a google search containing the word ‘violence’, and well, I have to do a very through investigation of the site once I open it in my web browser!

The same thing can be said about pornography if they pass the same law for all porn. I don’t ‘habitually’ visit porn sites. I just get bored and look up search terms including words like ‘naked’ and ‘sex’. And then I have to do a through investigation of those sites for… unpublished research papers on human anatomy, for education purposes!

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

…It appears that there is already a law in France that similarly makes it a criminal offense to “habitually” visit child porn sites, and this is a push to expand that same law…

If, as the article implies, monitoring for pederasty is already in place, it’s a very short technological leap to include…anything…you find objectionable. Are French authorities already performing deep packet inspection? DNS/IP address blocking? How is the current law implemented?

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

This is the classic “hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil” response to something that really isn’t that much of a problem to start with.

Am I surprised that an unbalanced individual would visit “sites that advocate terrorism or carrying calls for hate or violence”? Not in the least. Would such a law have stopped the shooter in the recent violence in France? No. So why criminalize what you’re not going to stop? And way punish researchers into that sort of thing by calling them habitual visitors to such sites?

Sarkozy is in danger of losing his job in the upcoming French elections so I suspect this grandstanding is largely what all that’s about. Appeal to his base.

Not that France is about to ban porn. This is France, after all, where you can see soft core on your TV set at home.

In many ways this urge to blame the Internet for everything falls into the same category as blaming comic books for violence in the late 1940s and 1950s and blaming rock’n’roll for just about everything our parents didn’t like from the 1950s onwards. Neither had a shred of evidence to them but one brought us the Comics Code Authority which pretty much emasculated that art form and the other led to record burnings, phrases like “jungle music” and worse because rock’s origins were in in black culture in the United States.

It got Sarkozy face time here and in other places and that’s all he wants, dangerous and silly as the idea is.

There really isn’t much of a level shit disturbers like Sarkozy won’t sink below. Even if it’s below the shit in the outhouse.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Just as soon as your son is arrested for assaulting that police officer you get to think about making decisions for anyone else.

All of your feel good, its the fault of outside influence not the people making the stupid decisions are the problem claims are not helping.

Stop using Mussolini as a role model, he blamed it all on everyone else as well.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

“It seems to assume that people are all complete suckers”

Patriot Act I&II

H.R. 1955

H.R. 2640

I could go on and on if I were at home and had access to my archives.

All, no. Most…
When they get away with legislation like this, why would they not assume we are all suckers?

Pjerky (profile) says:

Political Psychosis

Is it just me or have politicians worldwide become a lot more psychotic over the last 10-20 years? It seems everywhere I turn I am hearing about more and more insanity coming from the universe in which politicians exist. I personally don’t want any in power.

I would rather go back to series of much smaller city-states that work together to achieve a common goal rather than this disconnected political royalty class that we have now that don’t understand the world and are either terrified of it or hate it.

Its like Abe Simpson once said “I used to be with it, but then they changed what it was. Now what I’m with isn’t it, and what’s it seems weird and scary to me, and it’ll happen to you, too.”

Another possibility is that politicians have always been this insane and corrupt. Its just that the internet has helped us open our eyes to it because before the internet we had to rely on a mass media system that had its own agendas that are controlled by the rich and powerful (including politicians in some cases). So a lot just happened right under our noses before.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Political Psychosis

Another possibility is that politicians have always been this insane and corrupt. Its just that the internet has helped us open our eyes to it

All the more reason we must destroy the internet before too many political careers are ruined

think of the politicians, they never had to account for anything they’ve done before!

Anonymous Coward says:

I think this is a good plan – any attempt to enforce HADOPI would be shuttered since in order to know what sites are infringing and what files have been downloaded you would have to visit these websites. Violence gets you less punishment than downloading media; it’s not that much of a stretch to extend this idea in this way.

Gerald Robinson (profile) says:

Ahow about Sarkozy's own web site?

Sarkozy’s own web site and those of his party espouse discrimination, French racial purity and anti-immigrant hatred, will they be included?

Sarkozy is responsible in part for the recent violence by advocating expulsion of immigrants like the ROM and Islamist. His unhealthy totalitarian attitude is responsible for a lot of the opposition to his party.

BTW if Sakozy’s anti-immigrant policies were in place he wouldn’t be here?his father was an immigrant from Hungry, like the ROM he expelled.

Chilly8 says:

This is something similar to the Commercial Felony Streaming Act. People will just start using proxies and obfuscate the fact they are “habitually” visiting sites.

The Commercial Felony Streaming Act has the same problem. In the increasingly unlikely event that S. 978 does become law, people will just simply hide what they are doing by using proxies, VPN, Tor, and the like, so that prosecutors will not be able to establish a pattern of “habitally” viewing illegal streaming sites.

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