From now on, any person who habitually consults Web sites that advocate terrorism or that call for hatred and violence will be criminally punished.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a campaign rally in Eastern France proposes criminal penalties for citizens who visit Web sites that advocate hate or violence. He spoke in the aftermath of the murders of seven people by an Al Qaeda inspired gunman.

Electronic Frontier Foundation, French President Sarkozy Sees Opportunity for Censorship, Seizes It.

As the EFF notes, there are serious issues the proposal, among them: who defines hate speech; it hasn’t been shown that “criminalizing access to hate speech or terrorist content will end the very real problems of hate crime and terrorism”; and once a criminalization regime takes place it’s a very small step to censorship and “overblocking”.

Very important internationally:

When a democratic country such as France decides to censor or criminalize speech, it is not just the French that suffer, but the world, as authoritarian regimes are given easy justification for their own censorship. We [the EFF] urge French authorities to judge crime on action, not expression.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Lucie Morillon of Reporters Without Borders wonders whether Sarkozy proposes a full-fledged Internet surveillance system in France.

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