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Cablegate: Internet Rights Forum Discusses Proposed Internet

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RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
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R 200800Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5770
INFO RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUEAFCC/FCC WASHDC
RUEAWJA/DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 001074

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JUSTICE FOR KWILLNER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECPS ETRD FR
SUBJECT: INTERNET RIGHTS FORUM DISCUSSES PROPOSED INTERNET
REGULATION

Ref: A) Larrea-Dwyer 3/7 e-mail, B) Sullivan-Larrea March 12 e-mail

Not for Internet distribution

Summary
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1 . (SBU) France's Internet Rights Forum General Manager Isabelle
Falque-Pierrotin told us that a draft GOF decree that would create a
National Commission on Online Professional Ethics was not proceeding
forward. Originally envisioned as a way to protect children against
sensitive online content, the draft decree was vaguely worded and
raised concerns that it might have a large role in policing the
Internet. Additionally, Falque-Pierrotin said that a new law that
criminalizes the filming of violent crimes and posting such content
on the internet would not create new liability either for sites that
host such content or for internet service providers. End summary.


An Ethics Commission to regulate the Internet? Not yet
--------------------------------------------- ---------

2. (SBU) On March 14, econoff met with Internet Rights Forum
General Manager Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin to discuss a draft decree
that would create an ethics commission to oversee Internet content
(ref A). Falque-Pierrotin said that the proposal for a
Government-controlled ethics commission has been in the works for
months but only surfaced recently as copies of the draft decree were
leaked to the press and posted on the web. Originally envisaged as
a way to protect children and classify content by age group, the
proposal was vaguely worded and raised concerns that it might have a
large role in policing the Internet. These concerns were compounded
by the Government's decision to establish the commission by decree,
which does not require Parliamentary approval. Falque-Pierrotin
told us that the government project, which had originally received
much support form both the President and the Prime Minister,
appeared to have been shelved to avoid a public debate in the run up
to the April Presidential elections.

3. (SBU) This proposal is not likely to resurface, according to
Falque-Pierrotin, at least not in its current form. Much of the
opposition to the establishment of a new government-controlled
commission came from the Internet Rights Forum, which was concerned
about how the two organizations would co-exist. The six-year-old
Forum, in which French and other European Internet representatives
join GOF counterparts to develop appropriate legislation and
regulations governing the Internet in France, believes that its
private/public approach has produced results superior to a "top
down" regulatory approach. The draft decree was unclear on how the
new ethics commission, which would have been composed of five
appointees of the Prime Minister's Office, would interact with the
Forum. The press had speculated that the Commission would replace
the Forum.

4. (SBU) Falque-Pierrotin told us that the GOF has, on several
occasions in the past, attempted to create government-appointed
bodies with more sweeping regulatory powers over the Internet. In a
2004 bill "for confidence in the Internet economy" ("loi pour la
confiance dans l'economie numerique"), the GOF proposed to give
French Television Broadcasting Authority CSA the power to regulate
the Internet. The Forum opposed that draft legislation, which was
subsequently withdrawn. Falque-Pierrotin feared that the current
draft decree was a repeat of that earlier bill, and the Forum's
pressure appears to have convinced the GOF to shelve the decree for
now.

Taping Acts of Violence and Consequences
----------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Falque-Pierrotin also downplayed the potential liability
implications of a March 5, 2007 law designed to prevent social
delinquency, which had alarmed observers for its potential impact on
freedom of expression (ref B). Tucked deep into a 50-page
anti-crime law, a two-line provision criminalized the filming or
broadcasting of acts of violence by anyone other than professional
journalists. The provision aimed to battle "happy slapping," the
youth fad of filming violent acts that they provoke themselves.
However, contrary to what has been reported in the press, the
measure differentiates between those who film such acts and are
considered accomplices of the act (a provision first introduced in a
2004 law), and those who post the video on the Internet and risk
five years imprisonment and a 75,000 euro fine.

PARIS 00001074 002 OF 002

6. (SBU) Falque-Pierrotin added that those filming violent crimes
could legally do so if they were professional journalists, or if
they wanted to provide evidence to the police. Falque-Pierrotin
emphasized that the new provision would not create liability issues
for firms that host content, such as My Space and You Tube. These
are governed by the 2004 law on the confidence in the digital
economy, which requires that Internet Service providers (ISP) have
an alert system and that they provide the name of the person
responsible for posting videos with illicit content, i.e. child
pornography or content inciting racism.

Comment
-------

7. (SBU) While much of the press attention on the March 5 law to
prevent social delinquency focused on possible arrests for filming
police brutality, the law does not address this issue directly. The
courts will ultimately define how much leeway individuals are given
in filming violent acts, especially acts of violence by the police
during demonstrations. End Comment.

Stapleton

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