France Seeks to Sanction Web Companies for Posts Pushing Terror

French President Francois Hollande Speaks at Holocaust Memorial
French President Francois Hollande, speaking at a Paris memorial for Jews deported during World War II, said he would discuss a crackdown on racist and extremist Internet posts with global leaders at a ceremony at Auschwitz, Poland, on Tuesday as they meet to commemorate the death camp’s liberation 70 years ago. Photographer: Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images

The French government is stepping up the pressure on Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. to help in the struggle against terrorist groups.

President Francois Hollande said Tuesday in Paris the government will present a draft law next month that makes Internet operators “accomplices” of hate-speech offenses if they host extremist messages. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he will travel to the U.S. to seek help from the heads of Twitter Inc. and Microsoft Corp. as well as Google and Facebook. Spokesmen for the companies did not immediately return requests for comment.

Since Paris suffered deadly terror attacks earlier this month, the French government has been stiffening laws against incitement to violence and has cracked down on recruitment rings for Islamic radicals. Whereas a decade ago most potential Muslim terrorists emerged from underground mosques, security experts say they are now increasingly being radicalized and recruited online.

“The big operators, and we know who they are, can no longer close their eyes if they are considered accomplices of what they host,” Hollande said. “We must act at the European and international level to define a legal framework so that Internet platforms which manage social media be considered responsible, and that sanctions can be taken.”

Holocaust Commemoration

Hollande, speaking at a Paris memorial for Jews deported during World War II, said he would discuss a crackdown on racist and extremist Internet posts with global leaders at a ceremony at Auschwitz, Poland, on Tuesday as they meet to commemorate the death camp’s liberation 70 years ago.

At last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Hollande called on Internet companies to help identify and shut down illegal content. France has laws against making racist statements or denying the Holocaust.

Cazeneuve spoke at a press conference where he also announced the arrest of five people in a southern French town who are suspected of recruiting fighters to join Islamic State in Syria. He said there are 161 investigations under way for terrorism offenses, with 90 people having been charged and 75 jailed. He said 73 French residents have died fighting in Syria.

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