Tags: France | Cracks | Down | Internet | Freedom | Speech

France Cracks Down on Internet Freedom of Speech

Monday, 20 November 2000 12:00 AM

The judgment puts to rest, for the moment at least, seven months of litigation against the U.S. Internet giant. It was accused of breaking French law banning the display and sale of racist and anti-Semitic objects.

But the court case, involving charges that Yahoo displayed more than 1,000 Nazi objects on its auction site, sparked a fierce debate about free speech and the limits of national jurisdiction over the Internet.

Yahoo lawyer Christophe Pecnard said, "We are going to examine all the possibilities now, and obviously appealing this decision is one of the possibilities."

In his ruling, Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez said a panel of Internet experts believed that a combination of screening Internet users for their name, nationality and place of residence would be 90 percent effective in blocking French from accessing the U.S. auction site. Yahoo has already screened its French site for such access.

If Yahoo does not install the appropriate mechanisms within three months, the judge said, it would be forced to pay a 100,000-franc ($14,000) fine daily until it complied.

The Yahoo case began with an April lawsuit by Union of Jewish Students in France and International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, which argued the U.S. company violated France's anti-Semitism law. In May, Gomez agreed, calling the Nazi auction site "an offense to the collective memory" of World War II France, when French Jews were deported to concentration camps and the Vichy government collaborated with Nazi Germany.

But Yahoo has argued that as an American company, it should not be subject to laws of another country. The French legislation, the company said, violates U.S. principles of free speech. Free-speech advocates, such as Reporters Without Borders, also argue the decision offers a dangerous precedent that threatens liberty of expression. Other critics are concerned about any national constraints to the seemingly borderless boundaries of the Internet.

Copyright 2000 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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The judgment puts to rest, for the moment at least, seven months of litigation against the U.S. Internet giant. It was accused of breaking French law banning the display and sale of racist and anti-Semitic objects. But the court case, involving charges that Yahoo displayed...
France,Cracks,Down,Internet,Freedom,Speech
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2000-00-20
Monday, 20 November 2000 12:00 AM
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