French advisory council speaks out against Sarkozy’s plan to criminalize visiting extremist websites

French advisory council speaks out against Sarkozy’s plan to criminalize visiting extremist websites ...

France’s National Digital Council (CNNum), an advisory committee created by President Nicolas Sarkozy himself, has spoken out against a plan to punish frequent visitors of extremist websites.

CNNum was established in April last year and plays an advisory role with the French government, under the supervision of the French Minister of the digital economy. CNNum is consulted by the government on any legislation that may impact the country’s digital economy.

In a statement addressed to Sarkozy, the committee has requested to be consulted in regard to the drafting of any legislation criminalizing Internet activity. It emphasized the fact that fighting against any form of cybercrime must be reconciled with the principles of freedom of expression and communication.

There is no question how difficult it would be to enforce a law of this kind, as it raises serious questions relating to monitoring and potential ‘online profiling’.

As TNW’s Anna Heim wrote, “…how do you tell a journalist or a PhD student from a wannabe suicide bomber? The answer is: You can’t.”

CNNum’s statement, translated by Reporters without Borders, outlined the pitfalls of attempting to implement any sort of legislation:

“Your proposal raises several questions as regards, for example, the method of identifying the person who commits this offence, existing legislation (such as the eCommerce directive) and the fact that Internet service providers are not obliged to keep a user’s browsing history.

Furthermore, use of these sites by certain professions (such as journalists and university academics) and their ability to look at them regularly could raise legitimate difficulties when it comes to enforcing this offence.”

This is not the first time the organization has disapproved of the government’s approach to Internet-related legislation. In May last year, CNNum successfully shot down a Sarkozy-led initiative to introduce a ‘Google tax’ on online advertising. Sarkozy has not, however, completely let go of the prospect, with the idea once again surfacing just this month.

Sarkozy’s track record with Internet-related legislation is rocky at best, with the French president attempting to introduce a ‘civilized Internet’, much to the Internet’s chagrin.

It would appear that in the case of this latest attempt by the French president, the Internet is not going to take this one lying down either.  And we all saw what happened last time the Internet rallied against legislation that chipped away at its freedom.

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