The French state and Internet service providers have struck a deal to block sites carrying child pornography or content linked to terrorism or racial hatred, Interior Minister Michel Alliot-Marie announced Tuesday.
The plan, part of a larger effort to fight cybercriminality, is to go into effect in September when a "black list" will be built up based on input from Internet users who signal sites dealing with the offensive material, the minister said.
The announcement comes on the heels of a similar deal in the United States, also announced Tuesday. There, three service providers — Verizon, Sprint and TimeWarner Cable — have agreed with New York state officials to block child pornography sites nationwide.
Alliot-Marie said all service providers in France have agreed to block offending sites but did not name them.
"We can no longer tolerate the sexual exploitation of children in the form of cyber-pedopornography," Alliot-Marie said. "We have come to an agreement: the access to child pornography sites will be blocked in France. Other democracies have done it. France could wait no longer."
More countries fighting cybercriminality
Among other countries that have already implemented similar measures include Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Canada and New Zealand.
Under the French plan, Internet users, via a platform, will be able to signal inappropriate sites and the state, receiving the complaints in real time, will then decide whether the sites are to go on a so-called black list to be passed on to Internet service providers to enforce site blocks.
Sites containing what appear to be blatant crimes will be referred to judicial authorities, the minister said.
As for offending sites hosted in other countries, France will pass on the information via Interpol or Europol, the two police agencies, or seize judicial authorities there, Alliot-Marie said.
She insisted that the plan would not "create a Big Brother of the Internet" and pledged her support for the "fundamental liberty that is Internet access."
France's upcoming presidency of the European Union will be a chance to coordinate efforts between countries, she said, adding that efforts are often needlessly duplicated and sites shut down in one country often pop up in another.