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France’s Bold Response: Unleashing Internet Censorship to Battle Online Fraud

France's SREN Bill: Threatening Internet Freedom and Privacy

France is preparing to implement the SREN Bill, a proposed law aimed at combatting online fraud and regulating internet content. However, experts are warning that this legislation poses a significant risk to internet freedom and sets a dangerous precedent globally. Under the SREN Bill, authorities in France would have the power to flag websites, forcing DNS providers and web browsers to block access to these sites.

The Concerns Surrounding the SREN Bill

While the SREN Bill is motivated by legitimate concerns such as digital fraud, online harassment, and minors' access to pornography, many experts warn that it is a “dangerous slippery slope.” By granting the French government increased website blocking powers, this legislation enables further censorship capabilities and threatens the openness of the internet.

Mozilla, the company behind Firefox, expressed concern about the potential consequences of the SREN Bill. In a blog post, Mozilla highlighted the risks of forcing web browsers to create a technical capability that could be used for censorship purposes. This move not only overturns established content moderation norms but also provides a blueprint for authoritarian governments to suppress free expression.

A Pattern of Controversial Regulations

This is not the first time France has proposed controversial regulations. Another bill introduced in July aimed to grant police powers to spy on citizens through phones. Additionally, President Macron is pushing for the ability to shut down social media platforms if they fail to promptly remove hateful content during riots under the new Digital Service Act. These measures raise concerns about privacy and freedom of expression.

The Impact on Privacy and Freedom of Expression

Privacy advocates at Article 19 highlight the negative implications for data privacy resulting from the SREN Bill. Compliance with the new requirements could lead web browsers to collect more browsing data, raising concerns about user privacy.

Furthermore, the increased censorship powers granted by the SREN Bill threaten individuals' and content creators' freedom of expression. There is a fear that browsers may also need to implement blocking mandates for users located outside of France's borders. This undermines not only internet freedom but also the rights guaranteed by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Mehwish Ansari, Head of Digital at Article 19, warns that the SREN Bill gives the French government extraordinary power to censor websites without adequate judicial oversight or public accountability. Both Mozilla and Article 19 call on the French government to reconsider these provisions and seek safer alternatives, such as improving existing mechanisms utilized by browsers and enhancing public awareness.

Conclusion

The SREN Bill in France poses a significant threat to internet freedom and privacy. Granting increased website blocking powers to the government could create a dangerous precedent for other countries. The bill's provisions undermine established content moderation norms, risk compromising data privacy, and restrict freedom of expression. It is crucial for the French government to reconsider these measures and explore alternative solutions that uphold fundamental rights while addressing legitimate concerns about online fraud.

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