The French Senate passed a new anti-terror bill last night after just one reading.
The new law, which still has to be examined by a Joint Commission in the coming weeks, includes bans on leaving the country for anyone suspected of planning a terrorist act, the creation of an “individual terrorist enterprise” offence, administrative blocking of websites and other changes to judicial procedure.
Rights groups claim this means France has effectively declared war on the internet.
According to French digital liberties organisation Quadrature du Net, the ministers believe “the internet is a danger in itself that needs derogatory measures”.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said the bill would create “overly broad and vague powers that would breach rights to free movement and expression”.
As it stands, the proposed law criminalises “searching, obtaining or making” material that could be used in an “individual terrorist undertaking”. It also gives the government new powers to block websites deemed to “incite” or “glorify” terrorism.
According to independent government advisory council Counseil National du Numerique (CNN), there are serious practical problems with these new powers. For example, servers hosting an illegal site might also host legal sites that would be affected by the ban. The council also pointed out that much internet blocking can be circumvented, raising questions about the effectiveness and necessity of such measures to address terrorist recruitment.
The proposed law would also allow authorities to seize the passport of any French citizen suspected of planning to go abroad with the aim of “participating in terrorist activities”.
The French commission on human rights (Commission Nationale Consultative des Droits de l'Homme, CNCDH) said in its official opinion that, in practice, this suspicion would be based on secret notes from intelligence services that people would not be able to challenge. ®