One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter
Gerald Seymour, Harry's Game
The authorities in France have used new powers to block five websites accused of “condoning terrorism,” giving internet service providers just 24 hours to put in place “all necessary measures to block the listing of these addresses.”
The banning order is the first of its kind under new rules – approved by the French parliament in November and implemented in February – following the Paris attacks in January.
The new powers allow the blocking of websites – without the need to obtain a court order – where they are suspected of being involved in promoting or commissioning terrorism, or the distribution of child porn.
Visitors to the blocked sites are redirected to a French Interior Ministry webpage which displays an image of a red hand (see above) along with a message saying:
You are being redirected to this official website since your computer was about to connect with a page that provokes terrorist acts or condones terrorism publicly.
The fast action took at least one ISP by surprise as Ocatve Klaba, chairman of European Internet Service Provider OVH, took to Twitter to exclaim how his firm had received no warning whatsoever that one of the sites it hosts – islamic-news.info – had been blocked by the Interior Ministry.
Pq personne ne nous a notifié LCEN pour fermer le site http://t.co/m6A36P26JO ? J'apprends ce matin qu'il a été bloqué par le M Intérieur !?
— Octave Klaba / Oles (@olesovhcom) March 16, 2015
The use of the internet for promoting and planning acts of terrorism is a major headache for many governments. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, ministers from eleven European countries came together to release a joint statement in which they said:
We are concerned at the increasingly frequent use of the Internet to fuel hatred and violence and signal our determination to ensure that the Internet is not abused to this end, while safeguarding that it remains, in scrupulous observance of fundamental freedoms, a forum for free expression, in full respect of the law.
Critics, including this writer, have concerns about the way France has chosen to address the issue though – while I certainly agree that any site that promotes hate, terror or any form of violence has no place on the internet, irrespective of who it may target, I don’t like the idea of banning orders without any form of judicial oversight.
In this increasingly dystopian world we live in, where Big Brother appears to be more reality than fiction, and in which governments seem to do as they please with no regard to the peoples’ wishes, I think you have to contemplate that, maybe, one day, someone may just abuse power like that.