AFP runs a story today on how France and the Netherlands are keen to establish international guidelines to prevent private firms from exporting high-tech equipment that could be used for Internet censorship. As the report notes,
“We must support cyber-dissidents in the same way that we supported political dissidents,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told a meeting in Paris attended by some 20 countries including the United States and Japan.
However, in A step backwards for Citizen Journalism – France bans citizen journalists from reporting violence, I flag the French laws that essentially criminalize the activities of citizen journalists unrelated to the perpetrators of violent acts. Earlier this year, Move over, Australia: France taking ‘Net censorship lead published in Ars Technica notes that the French lower house, the National Assembly, passed a security bill known as LOPPSI2, described as a “grab bag of security items that includes state-sanctioned computer Trojans, a massive new database of citizen data (dubbed “Pericles”), and a requirement that ISPs start censoring sites on a government blacklist”. That article goes on to note that,
Under Sarkozy, France is moving to a more proactive enforcement model that removes or blocks content at the source, rather than being content to go after lawbreakers. As a consequence, however, France will now have one of the toughest censorship regimes of any robust democracy in the Western hemisphere—though Australia is giving France a good run for its money on the worldwide stage.
Disappointingly, the AFP article does not flag or interrogate this disconnect between what is on the one hand seemingly progressive advocacy by France and on the other, censorious policies and practices within its own territory. Unless the two are in sync, France risks being called a hypocrite, championing rights and measures that its own citizens cannot fully enjoy.
Sadly, it’s not the only democracy that engages in internet censorship. The United Kingdom, the US, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Australia are some of the other countries that have, to varying degrees, strict controls of content on the internet.