The recent terrorist attacks in Europe have led to many statements implying the necessity of limiting citizens’ fundamental rights to ensure public safety. At the European level we are faced with the alarming prospect of air passenger data (Passenger Name Records, PNR) collection and long-term storage, while in France the legislative mills are turning even faster.
Last week, the French government enacted a decree that enables the de-listing of websites from search engines without any judicial oversight. The decree targets websites that distribute child abuse content as well as sites that incite or endorse terrorism. This comes only a month after another decree that enabled the administrative blocking of websites.
On 27 March 2014, the European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruled that national jurisdiction can order an injunction against an Internet Service Provider (ISP) requiring it to restrict its customers from accessing a website that is placing protected content online without the consent of the rights holder.
Four Austrian providers have continued to fight the details regarding the implementation of the decision before Austria’s supreme court (Oberster Gerichtshof, OGH) – without much success.
This week, Austrian online news platform “Futurezone” obtained a classified copy of the latest decision of the OGH. The document shows that the national supreme court decided to impose the costs of Austria’s blocking scheme on the operators – meaning that these will, in the end, be passed on to the customers.
France has introduced a new law that allows government agencies to order the blocking of websites that advocate acts of terrorism or contain images of child abuse.
The legislation was brought in by revisions to 2011’s Loppsi Act, and an anti-terror bill passed by the French senate in October, but can now be used by the general directorate of the police’s cybercrime unit to force French internet service providers to block sites within 24 hours, without a court order.
Sites that are blocked will redirect to a page from the interior ministry describing why the action was taken. The sites will be checked quarterly to make sure they continue to display the proscribed content and that the block is still appropriate.
Since February 2015, CNIL has a person in charge of reviewing the websites which are blocked on grounds of online propaganda, terrorism or child pornography content.
On 12 June 2015 a new law was passed which allows the National Gambling Office to ask Internet Service Providers to block unauthorized online gambling sites. On 24 June, the National Gambling Office adopted a decision not only forcing Internet Service Providers to block access to certain websites, but also requesting them to redirect the users to a certain website hosted by the Special Telecommunications Service.
Last year, ApTI together with 5 other NGOs warned that the measures proposed by the National Gambling Office are violating fundamental rights. The message was resent today explaining that the effects of such blocking measures are technically inefficient and have a serious impact on human rights.
According to leaked documents from the Ministry of Interior, the French government is considering two new pieces of legislation: a ban on free and shared Wi-Fi connections during a state of emergency, and measures to block Tor being used inside France.
The documents were seen by the French newspaper Le Monde. According to the paper, the new bills could be presented to parliament as soon as January 2016. The new laws are presumably in response to the attacks in Paris last month where 130 people were murdered.
The first piece of proposed legislation, according to Le Monde, would forbid free and shared Wi-Fi during a state of emergency. The new measure is justified by way of a police opinion, saying that it's tough to track people who use public hotspots.
As for the second proposal, the Ministry of Interior is looking at blocking and/or forbidding the use of Tor completely. Blocking people from using Tor within France is technologically quite complex, but the French government could definitely make it difficult for the average user to find and connect to the Tor network. If the French government needs some help in getting their blockade set up, they could always talk to the only other country in the world known to successfully block Tor: China, with its Great Firewall.