June 22, 2001
11:53 AM   Subscribe

The French, determined to prove that even if they could understand that the "World Wide" web includes France and the rest of the world, they would continue to pretent they didn't. Like Yahoo before them, a web hosting service that caters to neo-Nazi groups (oh, sorry... "racialists"...) has run afoul of the French desire to control what appears on French browsers.
posted by m.polo (17 comments total)
At least Yahoo has a semi-legitimate excuse: They do business in France. This group should just dump the few French subscribers it has and tell the French government to go to hell.
posted by aaron at 11:56 AM on June 22, 2001

even if they could understand that the "World Wide" web includes France and the rest of the world

Unlike us Americans, eh, m.polo? Damn furriners.
posted by briank at 12:23 PM on June 22, 2001

So, pass a law that says French ISPs can carry nothing but the .fr domain. Pass another law that says what the .fr domain can carry. All the hate sites (and I'm including Yahoo, here) magically disappear from France. Problem solved.

Or is the goal here not just to censor stuff that appears in France?
posted by swell at 12:35 PM on June 22, 2001

Well, there's an extended principle: under French law, an ISP that (like many in Europe) uses a cacheing proxy for its transatlantic web traffic could be liable under the statute that makes it illegal in France to disseminate racist literature.

Right now, the law on "dissemination" across the Web is rather vague: English case law on defamation has applied it to hyperlinks. It also runs up against the right to privacy included in the European Convention on Human Rights. A test case would probably be useful: at least a situation like the one swell describes is transparent (bad word, I know) regulation of content.

And sort of what briank said: "World Wide" doesn't mean that a particular set of laws apply around the world, no matter how highly you prize them.
posted by holgate at 12:41 PM on June 22, 2001

Dammit! Foreigners! Don't they know that the internet should follow American thinking! Like freedom and guns and and SUVs and tolerance of other cultures (as long at they're not French, or anyone else that wants regulation or central control or anything else that is abhorrent (and clearly Good and chosen by God and in the consititution dammit) to the glorious peoples of the USofA).

In other words: maybe they aren't idiot fools.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:59 PM on June 22, 2001

Gosh, holgate, you made me sound like I was saying something intelligent.... :-)

cut that out.
posted by briank at 12:59 PM on June 22, 2001

I think briank may have misunderstood me: the French believe they can apply French law to Internet content, which of course, they can so long as the content is actually residing in France, but not to content that is based, say in Chicago, as in this case (leaving aside the caching done by the proxy servers). How briank translated that to American attitudes, I'm not quite sure; I meant only to say what I did - the idea that one nation's laws can be used to govern the world wide web is an exercise in futility...
posted by m.polo at 1:02 PM on June 22, 2001

"SUVs and tolerance of other cultures (as long at they're not French,"

one word:CHEVROLET.
posted by clavdivs at 1:19 PM on June 22, 2001

Okay, we'll try again....

If you haven't noticed, we Americans tend to think of the World Wide Web as being an American thing, and have even tried to enact legislation that would impose penalties on websites HOSTED IN OTHER COUNTRIES.

Does that make it clear? Cripes, a guy can't even make snarky comments without needing footnotes these days.
posted by briank at 1:21 PM on June 22, 2001

Well, again the question is a vexed one. If some of the sites hosted on this provider are "based in" France, then the uploads that go to the ISP from France are "dissemination". If you use Blogger to create your "NaziBlog", is it "dissemination"?

Certainly, targetting the US web hosts is overstepping French jurisdiction, but the law enforcement agencies need to establish precisely where the borders can be drawn. The same applies the other way: for instance, how far does the Secret Service's jurisdiction extend when dealing with sites that threaten the life of the President? (We already know that the MPAA, a body with no international jurisdiction whatsoever, managed to get a kid in Norway carted off for questioning over the "dissemination" of DeCSS.)
posted by holgate at 1:23 PM on June 22, 2001

see, im gettin ugly at my 'kin' and a proFESSIOnal nonetheless(e) its MARS, mr.cooke.ya see my greatgreatgranddaddy was from yorkshire, failed farmer who came to AMerka say 1850s' hung himself in his rather well stocked michigan barnBUT had me great granddaddy who worked for Post, sold Metzgers, raced real boats when the brits where bored with the pre-dawn bloated ciggerttee boats. He lost a million in 29' and fiannally had a smile on his face come 1947. He knew Mr.Ford(which your Mr. Laceys' biography captures best)He knew the govenor who knew the president....we are all sons and daughter of one nation or another. ...so in my way i am extending a biggin hand for you to come to the BIG SAMS' carriage factory for a good will visit(i know a stargazer at...well ). germanicus bows his head in shame for being rude if your comment was in jest.
posted by clavdivs at 1:37 PM on June 22, 2001

my point, boot me if you dont care for my syntax.
posted by clavdivs at 1:39 PM on June 22, 2001

Well, briank, snarky is as snarky does, n'est pas? Honestly though, this wasn't intended as a "Aren't we Americans smart" slam on the French - it was intended as a "Aren't people who think there are clear national boundaries on the Internet" slam. As holgate outlines, there are multiple layers of "who's responsible for what and where" issues going on here. What's not entirely clear to me is: who's liable, under French law - the person who publishes the material? the person who provides access to the material? the person who looks at the material?
posted by m.polo at 1:40 PM on June 22, 2001

ha, the crux
posted by clavdivs at 2:06 PM on June 22, 2001

The French can pass all the laws they want against neo-Nazi sites in the U.S. as long as we can pass laws against post-structuralist sites in France. Six of one, demi-douzaine of the other...
posted by jfuller at 2:11 PM on June 22, 2001

vive la différance.
posted by holgate at 3:25 PM on June 22, 2001

vive la danton. "Qu'est ce qu'ils savent de l'amour, es qu'est ce qu'ils peuvent comprendre?"-Caid Ali
posted by clavdivs at 9:07 PM on June 22, 2001

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