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. identicon
    Cees Timmerman, 29 Mar 2012 @ 7:09am

    Don't worry!

    Once things are clearly illegal, they will be clearly illegal.

    Also, if simple porn creates rapists, then imagine the effect of propaganda in creating terrorists.

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