Published: November 14, 2000
Case May Open Door for International Web Censorship
If the experts have their way, French Internet users may not have the opportunity to view Nazi memorabilia that’s currently for sale on Yahoo! auctions. Computer professionals testified November 6 in a French court that it’s technically possible to block the portal’s users in France from seeing “offensive” material, according to AuctionWatch.com’s Ed Ritchie.
Yahoo! argued before a French judge in August that it was impossible to prevent French citizens from visiting the US Web site. While the firm’s French language portal has to follow that country’s law forbidding the sale of Nazi memorabilia, French Web users were able to access to the illegal material via Yahoo!’s US address.
The French official adjudicating the case, Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez, ruled the rdf_Descriptions were “an offense to the collective memory of the country.”
Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang balked at foreign censorship of Yahoo! In an interview with the French newspaper Liberation he stated, “we are not going to change the content of our sites in the United States just because someone in France is asking us to…filtering access according to nationality is very naïve.”
The French court’s action has sparked concern amidst the online industry with its potential far-reaching legal precedent for international regulation of the Internet. For Yahoo!, possible outcomes include the localization of its 20 world outposts and its compliance with national laws governing more than 200 estimated countries using the World Wide Web.
Yahoo! will not comment on the case until the next hearing, which is scheduled for November 20.
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