Yahoo told to block Nazi goods from French

So ordered French Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez, in a precedent-setting decision handed down late Monday that will reverberate throughout the Internet industry.

Monday's decision reinforced a preliminary opinion delivered by Gomez in May instructing Yahoo to put filtering systems in place. Yahoo had long contended that filtering systems don't work, while plaintiffs such as the League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, or LICRA, and the Jewish student group UEJF had advocated that a partial solution is better than none.

Gomez ruled that Yahoo must put a three-part system in place that includes filtering by IP address, the blocking of 10 keywords and self-identification of geographic location. The system follows the recommendations of an expert panel appointed by the court to investigate such technologies, which revealed its findings earlier this month. Yahoo will have three months to put the system in place, after which time the company would be subject to a fine of 100,000 francs (around $24,000) a day if the system has not been implemented.

The case has raised questions about the jurisdiction of national courts over international Internet companies and has sparked a widespread debate over whether local laws should apply to foreign Internet companies. Yahoo believes its U.S. parent company should not be subject to French law, and that it already complies with the French law forbidding the sale of Nazi-related goods on its French Web site, Yahoo.fr.

"Our reaction [to the decision] remains what we've said thus far in the case," said Yahoo spokeswoman Sue Jackson, leaving the courthouse in Paris Monday evening. Yahoo doesn't believe that a U.S. company should be subject to individual laws around the world, she said. "Does one country have jurisdiction to regulate companies in another country?" she asked skeptically.

But the French courts -- as well as the French public, which in increasing numbers sees Yahoo as an insensitive American invader -- obviously see things differently.

"The French justice system has heard us," says Marc Knobel, a member of the board of Licra. "It is no longer OK for online retailers to say they are not affected by existing laws." Global Internet companies should put "ethics and morals" first, Knobel claimed. "If they won't do it themselves, they have to be forced."

Yahoo said it is currently reviewing the decision and will decide how to proceed in the coming weeks. The company can appeal the decision in French courts and may end up fighting the battle in U.S. courts, as well, said Jackson. "Given the free-speech implications, there are strong questions whether a U.S. court would agree to the decision," she said.

Licra will continue its fight if Yahoo decides to appeal, said Knobel. "It's stubbornness until the end with Yahoo, but we will continue to the end, as well."

Whether Yahoo decides to comply or not, the verdict has already had an impact on the Internet industry, which remains fearful of a highly regulated Internet controlled by many different governments at the same time. The repercussions will only grow larger if the case ends up in U.S. courts.

"This case has sparked off the issue of cultural differences and national sovereignty," says Jean-Claude Patin of Paris-based legal research firm Juritel. Internet companies are going to come under increasing fire if they don't comply with existing regulations, he said. "We will definitely see more of the of these cross-border cases."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?