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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  1. icon
    TtfnJohn (profile), 22 Mar 2012 @ 1:46pm

    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.

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