(eng) Lettre de revolte

counter@francenet.fr
Wed, 15 May 1996 17:05:57 +0200


Stop, in the Name of Penal Code Section 227-23,
You're Under Arrest!

Voila`, the secret weapon French authorities used to launch the heaviest
action yet against the Internet in France.

The results of the "round-up" by the SRP (Paris Investigative Section) of
the National Gendarmerie (Police) Monday, May 6: 48 hours of detention
for the administrators of two of the largest Internet Service providers
in France, FranceNet and World-Net. As icing on the cake, the police
confiscated some computer equipment.

"I'm shocked by the violence and the arbitrariness of this procedure,"
FranceNet's chief executive declared to the French daily, Le Monde.

Section 227-23 of the Penal Code punishes acts related to pornography
involving minors, especially children. It is such pornography that
FranceNet and World-Net, as companies, are accused of...of what? Oh, no,
you must understand, they are not accused of having produced this
material. What they are accused of doing is transporting the messages of
a substantial number of Usenet groups from the RAIN server (better known
as Transpac, a subsidiary of France Telecom, the national
telecommunications company) and making them available to their clients.
In particular, the distribution of the newsgroups
"alt.binaries.picture.erotica.*" is apparently criminal. RAIN's officers
have not been questioned or bothered in any way and continue to
distribute these newsgroups.

Obviously this strong-arm intervention solves none of the problems of
pornography on the Internet. Even politicians and magistrates know that a
subscriber can almost effortlessly use news servers almost anywhere in
the world and that closing two outlets (FranceNet and World-Net) is
utterly useless.

This "example" was set at the same time as a large conference on the
Internet opened in Paris. What example? Stationing police behind every
modem? Exterminating, more or less capriciously, the "dark" corners of
the Internet? Keeping a blacklist of the good and the bad? Setting up a
system to watch and examine everything that circulates through the
Internet, private or commercial? Inviting Big Brother into the den or
family room or office of everyone with a computer?

The villains of this story, FranceNet and World-Net, are two independent
corporations, of some weight, certainly, but minuscule in comparison to
the juggernauts and giants now arriving on the Internet. Among others,
since May 2 (a coincidence?) France Telecom, by its subsidiary FTI. What
our villains do not do is censor what is distributed, as some others
decide, more or less arbitrarily, what is "good" and "bad" to read.

We might then wonder whether FranceNet and World-Net have been targeted
because they violated section 227-23 of the Penal Code or because they
are annoying gnats detracting attention from more traditional
corporations. In any case, this sin might end up costing these two
executives a lot: they are subject to three years in prison and a 500,000
franc ($100,000.) fine.

The French Internet community reacted rapidly to this unilateral
censorship. Most of the ISPs have closed their Usenet service in protest.
The newsgroup "fr.network.internet" has received a constant stream of
protest articles. Many Home Pages are dressed in black backgrounds as a
sign of mourning, with a French flag at half mast. Substitute news
servers have sprung up all over the Web. The electronic mail boxes of
French authorities are filling up with countless protest messages, and
those of the two administrators, with messages of support.

The first results of this Black Monday have started crossing borders...

And you, the reader: consider this message as "another news source",
different from the classic media, spread it everywhere you can, to the
best of your ability. A message from Cybernauts and citizens who are
rising up against all forms of censorship, against all the forms of
control that are being set up slowly but surely on the Net. This story
has already happened, yesterday in the US, today in France, tomorrow
perhaps in some other European country...

Don't forget, this could also happen to you...Oh yes it could.

Giuseppe Salza (giusal@worldnet.fr)
Philippe Buschini (philb@sct.fr)