French SREN bill threatens the development of an open internet system

On April 10, 2024, the French National Assembly voted in favor of a bill on the security and regulation of the digital space. The SREN bill was finally passed after a final vote in parliament, despite objections from a number of deputies who said it threatened civil liberties.

France, like many other countries, faces growing digital security challenges. In response to this growing threat, the French government drafted and then passed a bill on the security and regulation of the digital space (SREN). The text was approved by 134 deputies with 75 voting against, notably from the ranks of La France insoumise (LFI), the Socialist Party (PS) and the Rassemblement Nationale (RN). According to AFP, the La France insoumise party said it would appeal to the Constitutional Council. MP Sophia Chikirou said the text of the law, “is dangerous to the fundamental rights of French citizens.

“Does the ‘Yellow Vests song ’ we are here, we are here, even if Macron doesn’t want us, we are here”“ fall under the definition of disrespect on the Internet? The question will be referred to the Constitutional Council, the fight continues,” said Sophia Chikirou.” said Sophia Chikirou.

Article 6 of the SREN bill is at the center of the controversy and is of concern to international human rights activists, who believe that the bill will serve as a cover for repressive actions by the French authorities. The bill proposes the creation of a “national public cybersecurity filter.” Relevant administrative bodies could oblige Internet browser providers, such as Mozilla Firefox for example, to display a warning message for Internet users who connect to fraudulent sites, but more importantly, these operators could be obliged to block such sites. The Mozilla Foundation, which supports the Firefox browser, advocates for an open Internet, freedom of expression online, and privacy protections. Representatives of the foundation believe that the Internet should remain a space where users have free and open access to information and expression. According to Mozilla, Article 6 of SREN threatens this balance by creating a mechanism of “government censorship” that can be abused. The Foundation fears that Article 6 could set a dangerous precedent in the world of technology. According to the Foundation, requiring Internet browser providers to automatically block access to certain sites according to a list provided by the authorities could open the door to justification for abuse by the French government, making it impossible to condemn authoritarian regimes already using this method.

Representatives of the Mozilla Foundation launched a petition against the French government’s “web censorship project”, the foundation managed to mobilize a large number of citizens and draw attention to the problems associated with the proposal to block websites at the browser level. The concerns expressed by Mozilla about Article 6 of SREN were shared by La Quadrature du Net, an association for the defense of digital freedoms. The association supported the petition and spoke out against Internet censorship in France. Both organizations warn of the dangers of state interference in the digital sphere, pointing out that such measures could lead to restrictions on freedom of expression and access to information online.

Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice join the Mozilla Foundation’s petition, which emphasizes the importance of fighting for a free and open Internet. The Foundation’s experts believe that a world in which browsers can be forcibly listed as banned sites at the software level and not opened in any region or around the world is a troubling prospect that raises serious concerns about freedom of expression.