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France can order internet providers to block terrorist websites

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The French government now has much more power to silence websites it sees as dangerous. The country has published a decree (in development since July, well before the Charlie Hebdo attack) requiring that internet providers block terrorist- and child pornography-related content within 24 hours of an official request. There will be quarterly reviews of these blocks in case the offending material goes away. However, there's no court oversight -- administrators can censor sites without clearing any major legal hurdles.

As you might suspect, civil liberty advocates are worried. La Quadrature du Net is concerned that France is both circumventing the usual legal process and stifling free speech. What's to stop officials from blocking some sites by mistake, or on purpose to further political agendas? It's also debatable whether or not the decree will be effective, since it's easy for determined criminals to get around these restrictions through proxies and virtual private networks. One thing's for sure: between this a proposal to make sites responsible for hate speech, online services will have to walk on eggshells if they want to serve the French public.

[Image credit: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images]

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