France strengthens its legal arsenal to fight against terrorism on the Internet

@ pour symboliser l'internet

Terrorism remains a constant and ever increasing threat. Following the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris earlier this year and on the November 13th, the French government wishes to increase its cooperation with the Internet’s key players; this, in order to fight terrorism on the Web and prevent the dissemination of Jihadist propaganda. It was in light of this initiative that Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister met with representatives of Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple and Microsoft. No concrete measures have been put into place at present but Valls aims to set up a counter-speech strategy against the Islamic State within the next two months.

Bernard Cazeneuve therefore launched a series of initiatives in order to raise awareness among Internet players about these challenges, by meeting with leading Internet companies to discuss the implementation of concrete solutions.

However, the French government does not intend to amend its legal arsenal in the near future. Currently, the “Cazeneuve” bill dated of November 13, 2014 already provides for a number of mechanisms to strengthen the fight against terrorism through Internet surveillance and to promote cooperation between authorities and Internet users in the identification of and fight against content related to terrorism.

The law provides that hosting providers have the obligation to implement simple and accessible mechanisms allowing users to report content which encourages people to commit acts of terrorism or their glorification. Nevertheless, the real innovation of this bill lies in the possibility for administrative authorities to order hosting providers to withdraw such content, failing which they may even block those websites by compelling Internet providers to ban the access to them. These authorities may also request search engines to dereference these websites.

In some cases, the administrative authority may even block the website directly without prior request to editors or hosting providers. The judicial control will be minimal since it will intervene only when the matter will be referred to the relevant administrative court by a “qualified person” appointed by the French data protection authority, la Commission nationale informatique et libertés (CNIL) to monitor these cases of website blockings.

France thus has a particularly tough legal arsenal to fight against terrorism on the Internet and on social networks since the November 2014 bill. The recent statements and efforts made by the Prime Minister and the Minister of the State Affairs are proof that the government is determined to implement these measures.

Following January’s attacks, several measures were put into place in order to fight Internet extremism. A website by the name of “Stop-djihadisme” was launched, allowing families and close relatives to signal cases of extremism and consequently battle extremist propaganda.

Presently, the French authorities consider that the Internet, prisons and prayer centres are all locations from which extremism can originate from.