After the tragic Toulouse shooting, which Richard Cottrell recently covered in detail, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has already begun to leverage the horrific incident to push his draconian policies.

Today he announced that it would become a crime in France to visit websites which supposedly advocate terrorism or hate crimes.

He also announced that he would further crack down on individuals who travel abroad for alleged ideological indoctrination. How they will know if anyone is actually traveling for ideological indoctrination and not just for the sake of travel is anyone's guess.

"From now on, any person who habitually consults Web sites that advocate terrorism or that call for hatred and violence will be criminally punished," Sarkozy stated in an address on television.

This announcement came soon after police reportedly shot Mohamed Merah, the individual supposedly inspired by al Qaeda who shot and killed seven people, as he was jumping out of a window.

This came after a standoff that lasted more than 30 hours in which three police were injured.

"France will not tolerate forced recruitment or ideological indoctrination on its soil," Sarkozy said. Obviously this makes little to no sense due to the fact that he is targeting people who choose to visit websites which allegedly advocate terrorism or hate crimes.

In no way could a website forcibly recruit or ideologically indoctrinate anyone.

Sarkozy added that France would be launching an investigation into if prisons are being used to promote extremist beliefs.

He also said that French authorities are currently investigating if the 23-year-old Merah had any accomplices or if he acted alone.


This is the kind of 'intel' provided by 'private intel' outfit SITE to government authorities and Western media.
The U.S.-based monitoring group SITE, which has been linked to American intelligence agencies, claims that Jund al-Khilafah, a group allegedly associated with al Qaeda, took responsibility for the tragedy, saying that their "brother Yousef, the Frenchman" carried out the attack.

This incident has increased anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe, with Belgian Member of European Parliament Philip Claeys advocating a much more firm stance on citizens who have allegedly been in "terrorist training camps" or "taken part in hostile activities."

"They should not be allowed to go back to their countries," Claeys said to RT. "All of them should be in jail."

Like Richard Cottrell predicted, it appears that those in power, namely Sarkozy, are already utilizing this tragedy to benefit themselves politically, with Sarkozy surging in polls in the wake of the shooting.

Setting aside the most glaring problems with Sarkozy's announcement, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has pointed out that such a plan could easily be circumvented by those who "habitually" visit such sites.

They rightly state that users could easily utilize a wide variety of tools to obfuscate their IP address and afford themselves some anonymity, allowing them to avoid appearing to be a "habitual" viewer, and perhaps avoid being identified at all.

There are a near infinite number of options that could be used, but one of the most obvious that comes to mind is a virtual private network (VPN) or a proxy server.

[Note: in our previously posted guides to blocking tracking methods and keeping your anonymity online, we have recommended Hide My Ass, which gives us a small cut of your subscription if you purchase through our link. If anyone knows of a better publicly available VPN, please let me know. Personally, I use this VPN every single day, so if there is something better out there I would really like to know.]

They also aptly point out that criminalizing access to content which is supposedly hate speech or supportive of terrorism will do absolutely nothing to end such violence.

Violent extremists existed long before the internet - and even electricity - and therefore it is absurd to assert that controlling the internet could end such violence (if Merah was actually an ideologically-driven terrorist as we are told).

There is also the glaring problem of defining "hate speech," which, in France includes anything approaching "Holocaust denial" and negative comments about the French Muslim community.

In the past, these anti-free speech laws have caused Yahoo! to discontinue all auctions of Nazi memorabilia, even though all of those who purchase or collect such items cannot be lumped into the category of Nazi sympathizers.

Is every museum or private collection which purchases World War II memorabilia suddenly sympathetic to Nazi ideology? Such an assertion is clearly ridiculous.

Actress Brigitte Bardot has been convicted of "inciting racial hatred" a whopping five times for her comments about the French Muslim community, while Sarkozy and the French government are let off scot free for their legislative attacks on Islam, including the banning of burqas.

Sarkozy is not (yet) calling for actually blocking the allegedly offending websites, although I would hardly be surprised if he did given France already offers people the ability to block child pornography along with "incitement to terrorism and racial hatred."


Comment: France only pretends to deal with the problem of child pornography.


However, EFF points out that such a censorship regime could carry some massive unintended consequences as has been witnessed in other nations who have attempted to block certain websites.

They point to Australia, where a dentist and other innocent individuals had their sites blocked as part of testing a potential censorship program.

The dangers here are immense and EFF rightly urges the French authorities to judge crime on action, not expression, as indeed visiting a website does not mean that an individual is a criminal.

After all, what about those who are researching such topics or reporting on them regularly? Could they too face criminal charges simply for researching extremist ideologies?

If Sarkozy is allowed to continue, France will have institutionalized "thought crime." Just by being exposed to certain ideas you could become a criminal.

Never mind your intentions or if you actually carry out any criminal activity, Sarkozy wants to target you simply for reading.

This is blatantly ludicrous but unfortunately when such efforts are pushed in the wake of a tragedy such as the shooting in Toulouse, people seem to fall for it.

Just look at how the PATRIOT Act, the AUMF and other atrociously un-American legislation was forced down the throats of Americans in the wake of the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

Hopefully the people of France will not be so easily deceived and manipulated as the people of the United States of America.

Otherwise, they might find themselves in a police state even more expansive than that which they are currently subjected to, and that is saying a lot.