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Censorship The Internet

French President Proposes Jail For Terrorist Website Visitors 402

howardd21 writes "French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is only a month away from an election, argued that it is time to treat those who browse extremist websites the same way as those who consume child pornography. 'Anyone who regularly consults Internet sites which promote terror or hatred or violence will be sentenced to prison,' he told a campaign rally in Strasbourg, in eastern France. 'Don't tell me it's not possible. What is possible for pedophiles should be possible for trainee terrorists and their supporters, too.' Is this a good move for security, or just another step towards a totalitarian society that prohibits free expression?"
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French President Proposes Jail For Terrorist Website Visitors

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  • by mhajicek ( 1582795 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:34AM (#39450277)
    So do you jail the intelligence agents who monitor said sites?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:42AM (#39450383)

      Naturally, no.

      Special exemptions for "special citizens".

      Like how Congress passes a law, but conveniently exempts themselves from it's application to themselves.

    • by second_coming ( 2014346 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:42AM (#39450385)
      Obviously not, in much the same way that enforcement agencies monitoring any other illegal content wouldn't be.

      Police and civilian IT forensic staff have to witness all kinds of completely illegal images/content on a daily basis and there is no question of any wrongdoing on their part.

      But then you knew that anyway.
      • by Idbar ( 1034346 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @11:03AM (#39451409)
        This sounds like an awesome idea.

        I hope the next massive trojan, doesn't start "visiting" these websites, and of course, it won't infect congressmen or even the president's computer.

        Because if it infects regular citizens... I guess many people is going to land jail. Great next trick and seems easier than "planting" child porn on people's computers.
        • by Tim C ( 15259 )
          Except that in practice, a few people will maybe end up in jail, then as the number of cases increases and more and more people are claiming it was a trojan/virus/whatever, they'll have to either a) stop prosecuting people for it or b) develop a test to detect said malware; detection = no conviction (unless you can successfully argue that the presence of the malware was a ruse to provide an alibi, and they really *were* visiting the sites).

          So, I doubt that many people will end up in jail because of a tro
        • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:39PM (#39458267) Homepage Journal

          I hope the next massive trojan, doesn't start "visiting" these websites, and of course, it won't infect congressmen or even the president's computer.

          Well, I'm a bit surprised that it hasn't already happened. Or maybe it has, and just hasn't been publicised. The basic technique was documented in the late 1990s. Google for "javascript preload". It's pretty well documented, and useful for legit purposes. Its main use is for a site to download its images to your cache while you're reading their main page(s), so those images will already be there when you go to other pages that use them. This can materially speed up a site's apparent response time. But it's easy to abuse.

          When I read about it way back then, I did a bit of experimenting, and found that it was quite easy to fill the browser cache of anyone (who had javascript enabled) with any images or other files that I wanted them to have, from any other site on the Web. Unless they know to look through their cache, they'd never see those files and would never know they were there. In my tests, I used assorted innocuous-looking images (with only an occasonal "artsy" image of nekkid wimmin ;-). But it was pretty obvious that the technique could as easily be used to fill their disks with stuff that would get them fired or fined or jailed.

          I still have my code, so I just tested it on a few of the current browsers. It still works just fine, as long as JS is turned on. And google reports that "javascript preload" gets more than 3 million hits, with some on the first page saying things like "How to Preload an Image", so presumably other programmers are using these JS features, too.

          And, lest you think I'm some sort of ï½ber-hacker (who even knows that that word contains an umlaut ;-), I won't tell you where to find my demo. I'll just suggest you talk to any web-programmer friends you may have, and ask them to try it. You may be surprised at how quickly they get it working. Or they may show you that they already have it working on their sites. They're likely to say "Hey, every JS programmer knows that!"

          And I don't believe that Congress or the President are immune. Can you imagine them running with scripting disabled? Their only immunity is that they can prevent the investigative agencies from examining their browser caches, or if some investigator does so, they can have him fired.

          The only actual defense is turning off all scripting. Anything that downloads code and runs it on your machine is an easy entry path for such malware, especially when it's using popular JS features that are there to speed up your web access.

          Sarkozy's proposal would be a good way for his minions to frame their opponents by tricking them into downloading lots of illegal stuff. Probably the only way to fight it would be to organize a project to fill his colleagues' disks with files of the sort that they want to make punishable by law. And up above, I told any interested readers how to find instructions on doing that. (I wonder if they're available in French? ;-)

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @10:16AM (#39450819) Homepage

      No, just journalists and researchers.

  • by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:35AM (#39450279)

    The French should remind themselves that their motto is Liberté, égalité, fraternité, and that all three bits are important.

    • by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:49AM (#39450471)

      The French should remind themselves that their motto is Liberté, égalité, fraternité, and that all three bits are important.

      Yes, but some bits are more important than others.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:51AM (#39450491) Journal
      In an unfortunate twist, the sorts of reactions that our favorite diminutive head of state proposes are exactly the sort of thing that seems like an attractive tactical move; but makes a unbelieveably dreadful strategic one against your assorted religious nutjobs and fundamentalist reactionaries...

      It is certainly true that some people Simply Aren't Interested in ye olde western enlightenment values, no matter how good a job you do of actually upholding them. Those you pretty much have to put up with, with the proviso that if they cross the line, you'll have to kill them.

      For everybody else, though, the lousier and more hypocritical your execution of your supposed ideals, the worse you look, and the better the chap down the road who has shit ideals, but is at least real sincere about them, starts to look.

      If your sales pitch ends up being "Welcome to the Free World(tm): We offer the finest in postmodern cynicism and brutality cloaked in the noblest sounding invocations of highflown principle than money can buy. Please look directly into the retinal scanner and have an nice day." You can't very well expect to stem fundamentalist recruitment very effectively...
    • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @10:02AM (#39450673)

      Pretty much. I'll be curious to see how that plays out. As others said, this is nothing but a transparent attempt to curry favor with the far-right. They are a minority, but a consistent minority. There's some electoral value in getting on a part of their plank. The real test will be the actual election: will Sarkozy be elected because of it, and will he remember this pledge?

      To some extent, I feel the same way about this idea as I feel about a lot of campaign rhetoric in the US. Most of it is nothing but basic pandering to extremist and unpatriotic viewpoints. If we'd take every politician at their election year worth, we'd have been in WW3 for the last 15 years or so.

    • It is the french POLITIC which should be reminded. The same way the US guys often sigh at the US political being in the pocket of corporation, we have similar problem here around.
    • by gadget junkie ( 618542 ) <> on Friday March 23, 2012 @10:08AM (#39450749) Journal

      The French should remind themselves that their motto is Liberté, égalité, fraternité, and that all three bits are important.

      I beg to disagree. I live only a few miles from France, in a possibly worse country (Italy). the three words of the motto are sometimes in contradiction of each other, because one of the best tenets of liberty,and relevant to the topic, is that i must be allowed to hate your guts, which means "middle finger to fraternitè", but that I must not be allowed to limit YOUR liberty to hate MY guts.
      individuals will mostly prefer liberty over fraternity; the politicians will always prefer fraternity over liberty, because it will give them the means, and the moral justification to meddle in everybody's life and make themselves relevant. this case is no different, and there's no politico like a french one.

    • by sociocapitalist ( 2471722 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @10:14AM (#39450803)

      'The French' are perfectly aware of their motto. This inflammatory statement is nothing more than Sarko playing to the far right trying to take votes away from Marie Le Pen as he knows he can't win with the left.

    • by jpapon ( 1877296 )
      Yeah, but remember that when they made that motto they were also busy destroying a bunch of cathedrals, and spent a lot of effort trying to eliminate religion from public life entirely. Based on that, I would say the Burka thing is completely in line with the spirit of the revolution (the first one anyways).
  • I can't find any details on the specifics of the proposal so I can't help but wonder if this is one of those things where everyone is guilty and now the government can arrest and detain whoever they want? So a scenario is a terrorist uses Yahoo Mail or Twitter to send messages, the French catch it and shut it down. Years later, I'm using twitter or yahoo! Now, if they arrest me or confiscate my laptop, they have the choice to hold me on the grounds that I was visiting terrorist websites. If they are forced to say which websites, they might just cross reference my browsing history base URLs with their database and pick the least well-known site (maybe Reddit or Slashdot even?) that they claim to have detected terrorist activity on? Ideally (for the government), I'm sure they would get away without even ever naming the sites on national security grounds or something.

    The politicians justify this by thinking they're good people and these laws where anyone could be arrested will not be abused. The people justify this because it happens infrequently enough that they can dismiss cases as outliers. But once a jerk is elected and these laws still exist, people start to notice because they'll use them against anyone -- even political enemies.

    "I don't like this guy. Go arrest him and make sure to get his computer. We don't have anything on him but we will."
  • That the one who does not go with the rest. Should be bust all slashdotters too? []
  • They're just a bit nervy because they recently got pwnd by a bunch of moon cultists.

  • Publicity whore... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zapotek ( 1032314 ) <tasos.laskos@gm a i l .com> on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:41AM (#39450377)
    ...the summary said so, he's only about a month away from the elections. That's just an easy way to get people to remember your name.
    What he proposed isn't going to happen of course.
    • by Pieroxy ( 222434 )

      What he proposed isn't going to happen of course.

      Of course. And the summary is also wrong in its conclusion: "Is this a good move for security, or just another step towards a totalitarian society that prohibits free expression?"

      It's just a step toward all websites using https so that nobody will have a fucking clue what you're looking at anymore. Often these sites have perfectly legit (should we say 'reasonable'?) sections and it's going to be harder and harder to determine which parts the users actually went to.

      • Yes, of course, because this will never go through the constitutional council which has already killed a number of laws proposed by Sarkozy's party. (Almost) Everybody knows it but on the other hand, presidential elections are next month so this might just gain him a few votes. There is nothing more than that, he is loosing in the polls and is desperate to strengthen his position before election day.
      • https doesn't prevent anyone from finding out that you made an https request to a particular IP address, and it was preceded by a dns request for a "terrorist" web site that resolves to that IP address. It just keeps them from finding out exactly what you were looking at on that server.
      • Of course. And the summary is also wrong in its conclusion: "Is this a good move for security, or just another step towards a totalitarian society that prohibits free expression?"

        That's not a conclusion, it's a question, monkey-face.

    • by Clsid ( 564627 )

      He's aiming to secure the vote of the extreme right since he's in a bad shape for elections. Even the French Communist Party ranks rose from 7% to 15%, so the left in the form of the Front Gauche is poised to sweep the idiot out of power. This latest comment from him is just but a continuation of his crazy remarks that shows his desperation. The other infamous one is the "there are too many foreigners in France", especially ironic when his father immigrated to France himself from Turkey.

      He did gain some poi

  • by Mr_Blank ( 172031 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:45AM (#39450411) Journal

    Anyone who regularly consults Internet sites which promote terror or hatred or violence will be sentenced to prison

    Such a law would be a joy for military recruiters. Click the links below to be put onto a French terrorist watch list!
    Army [], Air Force [], Navy [], Marines! []
    Army [], Air Force [], Navy, Marines! []

    I suppose the French President meant violence he does not agree with should be prosecuted. That makes more sense.

  • Thought police (Score:5, Insightful)

    by halfkoreanamerican ( 2566687 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:46AM (#39450433) Homepage
    I wonder if we should jail those who think about visiting said sites? That would be a crime too, if I'm not mistaken.
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:48AM (#39450459)

    It would be even easier to just recognize that importing large numbers of foreigners who don't share your country's values, and who have a history of having a minority who advocate making open war on your society, was a huge mistake for the Western nations. You could correct that by revoking visas in the hundreds of thousands and sending them back home. But no, you cannot do that. That would be "hateful" even though it would be an even greater violation of the human dignity of those people, to say nothing of your citizens, to subject them to a police state because you don't want to accept the fact that there is a constant, indefatigable minority who not only cannot integrate but are violently opposed to Western values. When I say "violently" I mean in the sense of willing to actually use real force, not the sort of pissant, isolated incidents associated with native conservative Christians and Jews once in a blue moon.

    • by Clsid ( 564627 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @10:03AM (#39450685)

      So in that sense we should also forbid the free flow of capital, natural resources, telecommunications and just live in our own separate tribes. Then war can make things better when said tribes have an issue because whoever loses gets assimilated or becomes slave labor. Yeah, it definitely is a better system.

      • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @11:16AM (#39451575)

        If you think nation states cannot trade, communicate freely and all of that without going to war or having ethnically "diverse" societies, you are sadly mistaken. The reason diversity is a problem is that without common, shared values and culture you have a limited shared social fabric for how to form a government, regulate public and private dealings and host of other things which bind society together.

        Shared ethnicity is very important and ethnicity transcends race. It's possible for a black and white man to have the same ethnicity; it's possible to have two blacks and two whites each be of different ethnicities. What matters most is having the mostly ethnically homogenous society you can while not tying ethnicity to race. At least in America, we've done a good job of separating race and ethnicity. You frequently now see whites and blacks treat each other as fellow citizens while both being suspicious of illegal immigrants as they're not from the same larger group as we are.

      • The problem isn't migration, plenty of people do that just fine. But the good immigrants are also something else. EMIGRANTS. They leave one country and culture for another. That works... more or less, it doesn't happen often after all but there are plenty of people who left their old land and never returned.

        With north african migration, this is no longer the case, they return every summer, bring their own religion, shops and places to hangout and create a little bit of home in the new country.

        They weren't a

  • by NReitzel ( 77941 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:50AM (#39450483) Homepage

    Permitting terrorism and hatred are awful things. They lead, directly or not, to real dangers to society and to humanity at large.

    However, consider the danger posed by a government given the power to say, "There are things you must not know." Not official secrets, which have some justification, but thoughts of people who think our governmental system is unfair - which is what Islamist thought is all about. How about thoughts about which God is the "right" God? Thoughts about what constitutes Evil or Good?

    Governments have been in the business of thought control ever since Socrates, and probably a long time before that.

    Whatever danger access to terrorist web sites constitutes to society, giving a government the ability to decide which thoughts you should think and which thoughts are criminal acts is a far greater hazard to humanity than any nut case with a bomb can ever be.

  • by Teppy ( 105859 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:52AM (#39450517) Homepage
    Including Inspire magazine (Al Qaeda's English-language publication), the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups, and sites sympathetic to the Oklahoma city bombing.

    I want to understand what motivates these people; I want to think about what sort of public policy creates the most freedom, prosperity, safety; I want to understand the enemy and figure out why they're the enemy in the first place.

    So I guess I'd be put in jail for this if I lived in France. Is Sarkozy saying that only politicians are able to reason about such things? Hell of a job they've done so far.
  • by aaaaaaargh! ( 1150173 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:53AM (#39450525)

    Look it's obvious that this is the right strategy against terrorism. When the people who regularly visit extremist websites go to jail for it, they will contemplate about the thought crimes they've committed and get a new life as democratic and well-adapted citizens. What else could happen?

  • by AwaxSlashdot ( 600672 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:53AM (#39450527) Homepage Journal

    This is a law-project tailored specifically to address the crazy killer that shot 7 people recently in France.

    The presidential election is less than 1 month away and no more laws would be discussed or voted in the mean time. So this law would never pass.

    The killer was under scrutiny since his return from Afghanistan. Since he hasn't done anything in France, he could be arrested and jailed. They weren't able to detect any suspicious behavior like planning to plant a bomb which is the most common terrorist act in Europe. We have very few gun-related deaths compared to the US, so such a killing spree is very unusual. This is the most obvious reason his planning went undetected.

    The point of this stupid law is to give an excuse for the Police to arrest and jail anyone with a slight hint of suspect behavior, before they might be planning to commit actual crime.

    As usual, this is stupid and inefficient.

  • What is this... (Score:3, Informative)

    by cyberworm ( 710231 ) <cyberworm@gmaiEI ... minus physicist> on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:54AM (#39450545) Homepage
    I don't even
  • Is this a good move for security, or just another step towards a totalitarian society that prohibits free expression?

    Sadly, from the point of the totalitarian society, this is not an "either or" question.

    Unfortunately, this proposal sounds a little like thought crime to me. You've not done anything illegal, but by looking at it, you're now a criminal.

    If I read a copy of the "Anarchists Cookbook", am I now a terrorist? Once you start outlawing certain kinds of thought and expression, you can definitely be

  • by Compaqt ( 1758360 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:58AM (#39450595) Homepage

    Can someone post a comprehensive list of URLs we're not supposed to follow (Anarchist's cookbook, WikiLeaks, and all the rest)? So we can avoid them, of course.

  • "Anyone visiting websites for emo teens will be fined for self-inflicted depression that taxes the entire public health care system."

    What bullshit thoughts does Sarkozy have in his brain now?

  • by accessbob ( 962147 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:59AM (#39450617)

    Cutting access to terrorists should certainly reduce their influence and access to new members.

    But who decides who is actually a terrorist? In the UK in the 80's our Prime Minister (Margaret Thatcher) used to refer to Nelson Mandela as a terrorist. Th Chinese Communist Party call anyone who stands up to their rule "terrorists", as does Assad in Syria today.

    So I understand the reasoning but fear the consequences.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The occupy movement labeled as terrorists in the UK.
      Seems to me that anything that opposes the global elitist oligopoly/corporatocracy trends towards being refered to as terrorist in nature.
      Anything that threatens the US Dollar Hegemony will have a vicious propaganda campaign waged against it. We will be made to believe that whoever or whatever threatens it eats babies, hates freedom and doesn't put the toilet seat down after t

  • France has repeatedly harbored those who my country considers to be terrorists. Time to imprison Sarkozy in Gitmo!

  • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @10:02AM (#39450663),_2012 []

    In a few weeks the presidential election will start. What do you think Sarkozy is doing ? he is batting for a renewal of his job. He has to show he is doing something and as usual it is individual liberty which take a shot in the knee.

    Whereas it is true that there are some legal precedent (downloading child pornography is punished by law, and as far as i can tell, even in the US, and nazi apologist or race hatred incitations is punishable by law), it would be difficult on the technological side (most of those site are on foreign soil).
  • by ianare ( 1132971 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @10:03AM (#39450677)

    Sarkozy is just pandering to the extreme right in an election year.

    This law would not be applicable given the French constitution, and in fact would also violate EU law. Any law which limits free expression must have a very specific target, and simply saying "terrorism" or "hate speech" is way too vast.

    Child pornography is illegal because it can be easily and precisely defined, but what would define terrorist or hateful speech ? And what is the difference between genuine political speech and hate speech ? It's all very subjective. It would also lead to some interesting consequences, like that Mein Kampf would be legal to sell in print but not viewable on the Internet.

    Article (in French) []

  • by AlecC ( 512609 ) <> on Friday March 23, 2012 @10:03AM (#39450679) rickrolling - or call it terrortrolling. Just set up a few fake links for your gullible frenemies, and get them the dawn knock on the door.

  • Don't tell me it's not possible. What is possible for pedophiles should be possible for trainee terrorists and their supporters, too.

    He's exactly right.

    Which is why only production of pedophilia should be illegal, and why it should no more be censored than such terroristic revolutionary documents as the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers. Or even Mein Kampf or the Bible.

    Government repression of free expression, on the other that's something that should be considered treasonous.

  • it is time to treat those who browse extremist websites the same way as those who consume child pornography

    Don't equate me with a terrorist just because I like to download some child porn, put some lettuce in the printer, and make myself a BL(cp)T.


  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @10:15AM (#39450817) Journal
    Welcome to the age of Minority Report, France: Now you, too, can be convicted of a crime you haven't yet committed, but that we suspect you'll commit! What's next, France? Jailing someone who researches how a nuclear bomb works? How about jailing someone who watches Breaking Bad [] because they obviously are planning on becoming a producer and dealer in methamphetamine? Whoops, little 5 year old Johnny at the supermarket with his mother almost walked out the door with a candy bar in his hand, better send him off to Juvenile Hall, he's on his way to becoming a hardened criminal!

    Seriously, Sarkosy? Are you seriously going to plunge head-first down this slippery slope? Are you really that stupid?
  • Stupid... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Friday March 23, 2012 @10:22AM (#39450889) Homepage

    Jailing someone for familiarising themselves with a subject is wrong...

    Guides on how to commit acts of terrorism could be perceived as interesting, and are useful reading for someone working on the other side of the fence looking to prevent, deter or even just detect such acts... In fact this is a common problem, those looking to prevent a given activity simply don't understand how those who want to carry out such activities think... Wether it's hacking, burgling, terrorism, piracy etc, and you end up with wholly ineffective measures that look really fancy but are easily circumvented by those who are serious about doing it, while providing significant disruption for innocent civilians.
    There seems to be a generally flawed mindset out there that concentrates on big fancy front gates, while totally forgetting about the rotten wooden door at the back.

    Personally i think the more people understand about how terrorists think, the greater the chance of their activities being discovered and stopped. Imagine you live next door to someone who keeps bringing bags of fertiliser into their house, are they a keen gardened or can fertiliser be used to make bombs? Have you seen any evidence of well cultivated plants in their back garden? Can you smell canabis coming from their roof space? Or can you smell other chemicals you've read about in the jolly roger's cookbook?

    Child porn is entirely different, most people simply won't want to look at it, even if they should stumble across it accidentally.

  • by vikingpower ( 768921 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @10:33AM (#39451041) Homepage Journal
    Just political campaigning. Sarkozy makes a habit of saying big things, and then not delivering on them. Nothing to see here, folks, move on.
  • Who gets to decide what constitutes terrorism and extremism?
  • It's a desperate attempt by someone whose popularity is very close to hitting rock bottom... from below.

  • Not that the Foreign Legion engages in violence. [] How do they distinguish between good violence and bad? I guess they mean state-sponsored versus free-market. Oh wait. Isn't "free market" something good?
  • by Ukab the Great ( 87152 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @11:21AM (#39451651)

    "Anyone who regularly consults Internet sites which promote terror or hatred or violence will be sentenced to prison".

    Guess I can't visit the Fox News site when I visit France.

  • It has been said that GW Bush first presidency was "saved" because of the atrocious 9/11 events. Even though he certainly didn't want/hope such events, that act of terrorism was a way to legitimate more immediate and tough actions, like retaliation / wars, that are certainly easier to handle compared to improving economy and unemployment.
    In France, that very tragic event from a week ago may be Sarkozy's lifeline during the coming presidential elections (May). Taking rough and strong measures immediately, and just a few weeks before the elections, may help him to win a second term. Internet freedom in France may not have been endangered if the elections were in two years from now.
  • by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @12:11PM (#39452413) Homepage

    I regularly visit the restroom. Does that make me a piece of shit?

    Wait. Don't answer that.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel