French LOPPSI Bill Adopted: The Internet under Control?

Paris, February 8th 2011 – Yesterday afternoon, the French Parliament voted the LOPPSI bill whose 4th article1 enables administrative censorship of the Internet, using child protection as a Trojan horse. Over time, such an extra-judiciary set-up will enable a generalized censorship of all Internet content. Consistent with Nicolas Sarkozy projects for a “Civilized Internet”, administrative censorship of the Internet opens the door to dangerous abuse while leaving pedophiles and pedo-pornography to prosper.

Loppsi, non à la censure du netThe National Assembly and the Senate have definitely adopted the ultra-securitarian LOPPSI bill, notably its 4th article which implements administrative filtering of the Internet in the guise of fighting online pedopornography. However, blocking access to websites will not prevent in any way criminals producing and distributing these contents to thrive2. This is a false pretense to legitimate administrative filtering of the Internet, and to deploy a technical infrastructure for censorship. Nobody will be able to control the way these filtering processes are set up, not even a judge, and it will be impossible to file a complaint given the fact that the blacklist will be kept secret.

As the recent Tunisian and Egyptian events have shown, the role of Freedom of Speech on the Internet is vital to democracy. In both countries, these events have also shown how ineffective targeted filtering is. In Egypt, the ongoing ineffectiveness of filtering pushed the regime to to kill all access to the Internet, a measure on which it had to backtrack a few days later on its own accord. La Quadrature du Net is outraged to see the Parliament follow — though for other reasons — the same absurd and dangerous path.

“The Article 4 of the LOPPSI is a disproportionate violation of freedom of expression and communication, notably in the case of unavoidable collateral censorship, and seems therefore unconstitutional3. Let's hope that the Constitutional Council will oppose this system of extra-judicial censorship of online information”, says Félix Tréguer, in charge of policy and legal analysis at La Quadrature du Net.

“Control of the Internet is on the agenda of the upcoming G8 and G20 chaired by Nicolas Sarkozy, in the form of the “Civilized Internet” concept. In this context, it is extremely worrying to see the Parliament imposing administrative filtering of the Internet. The same way the HADOPI turns artists into political tools and eludes the question of how creation can be funded in the digital age, blocking access to sites does not address in any way the problem of child pornography. With this vote, the Trojan horse of child protection opens the door to generalized censorship of the Internet4. Citizens committed to defending the Internet and freedom must act and denounce this instrumentalization.", concludes Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder and spokesperson of La Quadrature du Net.

  • 1. “When the necessities of the fight against the distribution of images or representations of minors relative to the dispositions of article 227-23 of the Penal Code justify it, the administrative authority notifies the persons mentioned at 1[online access providers] of the Internet addresses to which these persons must at once block access to.”
    “A decree specifies the terms of application of the above paragraph, including those according to which online access providers are compensated, if necessary, for the additional costs resulting from the obligation made to said online access providers.”; Translated from the official text.
  • 2. Rather than using child protection to push for the acceptance of filtering, the government could have chosen to reinforce its efforts to get infringing content removed from the servers hosting them. It also could have tried to improve international cooperation in this field. These methods are recommended by “L'Ange Bleu”, an NGO focusing on increasing awareness and preventing pedophilia, which is opposed to LOPPSI's Article 4. In French: “LOPPSI : la protection de l'enfance, cheval de Troie du filtrage généralisé d'Internet ?
  • 3. See La Quadrature's memo: Internet filtering violates the rule of law"
  • 4. President Sarkozy has already promised Internet filtering to the entertainment industries: “The more we will be able to automatically cleanse the networks and servers of all sources of piracy, the less necessary it will be to resort to measures weighing on Internet users. [...] It is thus necessary to test filtering solutions without any delay". - Wishes to the Cultural World by the French President, January 7th, 2010:

    Éric Besson has also suggested that WikiLeaks should be banned in France, despite the fact that the organization was never convicted by a court: (in French)