Liberté, égalité, Fraternité: France Loses Its Marbles On Internet Censorship

Over the years we’ve covered a lot of attempts by relatively clueless governments and politicians to enact think-of-the-children internet censorship or surveillance legislation, but there’s a law from France in the works which we think has the potential to be one of the most sinister we’ve seen yet.

It flew under our radar so we’re grateful to [0x1b5b] for bringing it to our attention, and it concerns a proposal to force browser vendors to incorporate French government censorship and spyware software in their products. We’re sure that most of our readers will understand the implications of this, but for anyone not versed in online privacy and censorship  this is a level of intrusion not even attempted by China in its state surveillance programme. Perhaps most surprisingly in a European country whose people have an often-fractious relationship with their government, very few French citizens seem to be aware of it or what it means.

It’s likely that if they push this law through it will cause significant consternation over the rest of the European continent. We’d expect those European countries with less liberty-focused governments to enthusiastically jump on the bandwagon, and we’d also expect the European hacker community to respond with a plethora of ways for their French cousins to evade the snooping eyes of Paris. We have little confidence in the wisdom of the EU parliament in Brussels when it comes to ill-thought-out laws though, so we hope this doesn’t portend a future dark day for all Europeans. We find it very sad to see in any case, because France on the whole isn’t that kind of place.

Header image: Pierre Blaché CC0.

77 thoughts on “Liberté, égalité, Fraternité: France Loses Its Marbles On Internet Censorship

  1. If there is anything I would want integrated in a browser, then it is to tell each website that I do not want the cookie shit, do not want to be bothered with those daily annoying popups, and combined with a law that forces all those websites to respect that setting and not show those annoying popups nor block websites.

          1. I was thinking something like a v-chip like feature where websites or embedded content would contain some sort of rating and the browser, OS, or network firewall would include a filter that looks at the rating an possibly keywords. Parents would need to set up permissions for thus to work and it wouldn’t work for content lacking or misusing this feature, but may work at some level?

        1. Seriously? People are going to stick up for that damned popup?!?!

          First.. cookies are necessary for useful things too. Have any sites you go to regularly and find yourself already logged in? Or forms that fill in some of your information for you?

          And yes, tracking is creepy. But…

          Those of us older than 30 still remember an internet which was full of animated ads for shit we had no interest in. (yes, shit was a carefully chosen and perfectly descriptive word)

          How many times can you be offered to “Punch the Monkey” before you want to punch the monkey’s author? And as a man do I really need a page full of feminine products when I am trying to look up the answer to a programming question at work?

          I for one enjoy having ads match my needs and interests. To an extent… suddenly getting ads for whatever I was just talking about is a bit too far Google and Amazon!

          Years ago I worked in support at an ISP. Unless people have gotten more informed and more intelligent over the last couple of decades (nope… quite the opposite, now there is MAGA) these popups must be hell for tech support.

          — Your site is so painful to use.. I always have to re-type everything…
          ++ Did you press the accept button on the cookie message?
          — No way, you want to track me!
          ++ We aren’t trying to do anything with your information but we cannot remember who you are if we cannot save something to tell us who you are.
          — No! You are with them! Chem Trails! Mind Control! Baaaaaaaaa

          And most of all…


          Ok… going to go relax now.

        1. I just discovered uBlock Origin (*the* adblocker to have, its dev is active and trustworthy) has options to try and block these in the “annoyances” section of its settings. I’d recommend it over installing yet another plugin (always a security risk).

          Also get firefox if you haven’t already, as chromium based browsers will block most of Ublock’s functionality with the advent of the next plugin framework in a year or two, and uBLock’s dev said he can’t in good conscience release the plugin for the new framework.

          1. Unfortunately, it’s the only addon that is as powerful. But some of the community’s mentality/dev’s handling of the community makes you reevaluate the trust in his software.

            The addon has a vicious following, which will mob against valid criticism. In some reports you’d think they are in some unhinged gamer forum, because their idol needs to be defended (but not in a civil manner).

            The dev does not handle that well enough and lets himself slip into this mentality as well.

            That said, it’s still a useful addon, and probably still better than other choices, but good conflict resolution is critical when it comes to trust about your privacy and freedom.

    1. The problem is _not_ with the cookie popups. They are alerting you to the problem. “Annoying popups” are like annoying fire alarms when the building you’re in is in flames.

      You _can_ build a website that respects users’ privacy enough that it doesn’t require consent.

      1. You might want to look into what your banking website is doing with your browser/PC.
        And they talk about trust, pishing and spyware…

        No one is building websites with respect for privacy.

    1. Article 6, a little below: “the administrative authority may, by a reasoned decision, enjoin providers of Internet browsers within the meaning of Article 2(11) of Regulation (EU) 2022/1925 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 September 2022 on fair and contestable contracts in the digital sector and amending Directives (EU) 2019/1937 and (EU) 2020/1828, providers of Internet access services or providers of domain name resolution systems to take, without delay, any useful measure intended to prevent access to the address of this service for a maximum period of three months. The decision of the administrative authority designates which provider is responsible for preventing access to the address of this service, depending on the injunction issued and the nature of the measure envisaged.”
      It is a temporary measure; and involving browser providers is just one of the options. Useful heads-up, but it does not trigger a “democracy alarm” to me.

      1. “it does not trigger a “democracy alarm” to me.”

        The EU cannot be qualified as ‘democratic’, as it is an hybrid system where the executive (governements) become legislators, violation the principle of separation of powers.

        1. EU laws are only as powerful as the treaties that nations have already accepted. Laws that go beyond treaties are challenged and struck down by EU courts. Nations that fail to implement EU laws are forced to under treaty if they fail in challenging the law.
          This is pretty standard stuff when it comes to governing a nation, and neither antidemocratic nor democratic.
          The treaties themselves even offer a way to pull out of the EU. Although it is intentionally difficult. EU trade as a really big carrot, and a small stick during a nation’s transition period out of the EU where it is pretty much at the mercy of whatever EU members decide.

      2. That’s more or less a harmonization of already existing and decade-old national laws. It also isn’t an EU-specific thing, most democratic countries on this globe have similar laws, even the US.

    2. Yeah EU is moving to be worse than China, no worries, we won’t be like China, we will be worse, so that’s not ‘like China’.
      I know in several ways they are equal already, but trust me, they are working on being worse so they will no longer be ‘like China’.

  2. I’m french and had no idea that browser were even mentioned in that potential law, so thanks for the heads up.

    I found in the law text the mention of the browser censorship list (website blocking) but I haven’t found anything about “spyware software”, have you checked the law yourself – or asked a french speaking friend to do so ?

    I have also not seen anything in that text about how authorities would force the browsers makers to apply the censorship, and thus I believe it’s yet another show-off law that won’t be enforceable, but IANAL.

      1. If I am not mistaken, it seems that this regulation has nothing to do with the French bill. It is just a reference for the definition of browser.
        As a matter of fact, the title of 2022/1925 is “Regulation (EU) 2022/1925 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 September 2022 on contestable and fair markets in the digital sector and amending Directives (EU) 2019/1937 and (EU) 2020/1828 (Digital Markets Act) (Text with EEA relevance)”.

          1. From asking (forcing? it is not specified in the law) to block access to a web site to installa spyware in a computer seems a very long stretch to me… France is definitely not a totalitarian regime, currrently.

          2. “France is definitely not a totalitarian regime, currently.”

            You must be daydreaming, I would suggest you take the red pill and start thinking about the immediate consequences of such a ridiculous law which which of course is implemented for the good of the people.

            I’m French and I’ve seen in recent years what our government is capable of doing.

            Let me give you a concrete example, one day while working in Germany I wanted to share an article which was not even related to the Ukrainian Conflict but coming from RT, to my surprise my Friend located in France was unable to access the website.

            When I came back home in France I realized that DNS Servers from ORANGE (French ISP) gave me an answer, Same for plenty of websites including Health related contents where people share studies.

            I was so mad I’ve decided to modify the DHCP settings from my ISP box, and you know what ? The option to change DNS servers was simply absent.

            I’ve ended up switching to a different ISP and build my own Firewall.

          3. @Mitch
            Have you tried using a different DNS on your device? These web site blockages are usually easy to overcome; you will find a lot of workarounds if you look for them. Anyway, I think one should try a real totalitarian regime before complaining for the lack of freedom in Europe…

            “but coming from RT” what is RT?

          1. This was not my point. I mean that the proposed law applies to browser vendors (whatever it means… I have doubts that this could work even for them: what “vendors” can they force to comply? Should Firefox provide a specific version for France? Or they would rather say “officially, I’m not available in France” and leave the choice to the user?), not to citizens. Thus, if you can find a different way to browse the internet (write your own browser, download the code and remove the filters, use a non-compliant browser), this law does not impact you.
            Bottom line, I think that this proposal is a kind of typo that will end up in the usual filters at ISP/DNS level.

          2. @unochepassa
            This is not a France-only affair, it’s EU law and will be implemented in all member states. A browser vendor just has to include court orders in his already existing blocking list server, no browser modification needed.

          3. @hartl
            It is a French affair. In fact, i is a proposal for a national law. I have not found any EU law talking of blocking web sites through the browser. In Italy, for example, we have piracy-related web sites blocked at ISP/DNS level. In addition, even if I didn’t read the full text, but this “project of law” seems only about pornography and pedopornography.

          4. @unochepassa
            You’re correct, this proposal has not much to do with EU 2022/1925. If this ever becomes law, it will be either unenforceable or Google and M$ will happily comply, since the technology is already deployed and both will probably do anything if it might help to reduce lawsuits based on 2022/1925.

          1. Democracy sucks. ‘They’ have happily trade freedom for bread and circuses. Many nations now have more then 50% on the tit, those nations are doomed.

            What you want is a constitutional republic w strong individual rights protections.

            It’s inflammatory but true. Gang rape is a perfectly democratic thing. Majority involved are for it. Also two wolves and one sheep voting on dinner.

  3. I’m legit curious.
    I though Had was *PRO* censorship. Sure seemed like it from a bunch of stories. I just skipped those nonsensical things.
    Is the “red line” code running on *YOUR* computer instead of “the cloud”? This is honestly the impression I’ve been getting from HaD over the past year or so. So what gives?

    1. I think the commenters are more pro-censorship than the writers here.

      And yes, the ‘red line’ is where the code is ran : There is a large barrier between your computer and “the cloud”, but I think the main problem is that the code is mandated by the government instead of a random profit-motivated company.

  4. Bricker:
    1 someone who makes bricks.
    2 someone who makes bricks of Android cell phones and tablets.
    3? someone who makes bricks of Chromebooks.

    Videos show to brick an Android cell phone by downgrading the OS.

    1. Censorship on your own platform is still quite different from forcing crap into browsers EVERYBODY uses.
      Or into smartphones for that matter.

      As for censoring movies without telling you, I know German TV did this, I know the BBC did it (yes, even after the watershed) and I’m pretty sure many euro countries did it.
      As for the US, they even made movies completely disappear, you won’t even find them mentioned on the internet. And incidentally, that also shows that yes, you can remove things from the internet and no the internet is not a source of ‘all human knowledge’ as they sometimes say for dramatic effect.

  5. Is it possible that at a deeper level one of the goals is to prevent access to websites commenting on the not-so-greatness of the current and growing crop of African and Muslim invaders?

    1. If I get your take here, are you suggesting that this would be an attempt to prevent the public from realizing that many people believe as you do about the dangers of the influx of immigrants from African and Muslim countries? But don’t you share that position with French president Macron and the majority? Not sure I understand who would be the party conspiring to prevent the public from objecting to the white (non-African), christian (non-Muslim) majority being “invaded” and displace/replaced (unless I’m confused about the source of the proposed law- to be fair, I’m here for the comments like anyone else). If I’ve misunderstood your position, please enlighten me; I’m not attempting a clever reply of any sort, I’m genuinely curious. (I’ll come back).

  6. I wonder if it had anything to do with the recent near-civil-uprising where migrants were running around in the streets using assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades of mysterious origin within France’s borders and people were filming it and putting it online

    1. Clearly not. The current government is more anti-immigration that you would think, even if they don’t go beyond the far right on this matter. It’s more to do with the moral panic that was caused by, indeed, the riots, but also the “wokism” imported from the US.

      1. The current frog government is all for immigration, to England.

        Wokism is a reimport for France, then invented it in the 1960s. It’s actually very slightly less stupid now. They were originally pro-Chester. The single greatest perpetrator of frog wokism (Paul-Michel Foucault) was openly and notoriously a molester of little boys.

        French ‘intellectuals’ said ‘this is fine’.

  7. Just more proof that the EU was cooked up by France and Germany as a non-military method of ruling Europe, after they both failed to do so by force of arms multiple times in hundreds of years. Also, economic cooperation for control is much less messy than swords, spears, arrows, and various projectiles and explosives.

    Could be the EU will be temporary, as was every time either one of Germany (or rulers of the area that would become Germany) or France ruled over a significant portion outside their borders.

  8. At least they’re trying to get this absurd law on paper. In Brazil we’ve been sieged for the last 3-4 years by an extremely corrupt supreme court, that basically threw the constitution out the window and are legislating out of their ass on almost anything. Said anything they don’t like? You could be indicted on a secret lawsuit and go to prison for a couple of years without even knowing why, no defense allowed. Thousands are incarcerated or going through this madness right now. One of their tenets is that they also want to control social media and the internet, and will do so at their will. Every day we see absurd news that X or Y had his/her social media accounts blocked by Brazilian justice just for expressing their opinions. And the local media is very complacent on this as well.

    1. Interesting. I’m pretty sure every citizen of every country believes at some level their own leaders are corrupt and twist social media, mass media, and website blocking to their own agenda.

  9. “We’d expect those European countries with less liberty-focused governments to enthusiastically jump on the bandwagon”
    So, it seems the author knows of an EU nation who might NOT be enthusiastic about fascist-type stuff. Care to tell us which country that is? Because I know of no such EU member being left.

    And note that the goddamn EU parliament/commission idiots want to do the same stuff to smartphones. So it’s not just France who lost it, it’s the EU/US/planet.

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