After Paris Attacks, France Is Cracking Down on Internet Usage

Getty Images

National responses to terrorism can bring out the best in our humanity as people gather together to weather the storm and confront their fears. But attacks like the recent bombings in Paris can also bring about the worst of humanity. In this case: terrified cries for further surveillance and government intrusion.

French news publication Le Monde got ahold of two pieces of proposed legislation for January 2016. The first would shut down or limit "free and shared Wi-Fi" during their ongoing state of emergency, and the second would ban the use of Tor, a browser that allows users to surf the Web anonymously.

Already, the laws have been used to suppress unfriendly political speech, including the house arrest of 24 climate change activists — hardly relevant to the current "emergency."

Police state of emergency: Paris has been in a state of emergency since President François Hollande gathered his cabinet on Nov. 13, the night of the attacks. It's the third time in France's history that the laws have been enacted.

The laws for being in a state of emergency in France are much broader than in many other countries. In France, a state of emergency allows for the shutting down of public gatherings and warrantless searches. Already, the laws have been used to suppress unfriendly political speech, including the house arrest of 24 climate change activists — hardly relevant to the current "emergency."

Source: Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images
Source: Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images

Sweeping measures for security and surveillance are the gut response for many nations after suffering a terrorist attack. But in this case, there's still no evidence that the terrorists who planned the Paris attacks used encrypted communications, onion routing, public Wi-Fi shrouding or any of the other digital cloak-and-dagger maneuvers that intelligence and law enforcement officials worldwide are railing against.

Blocking public access to Wi-Fi is both inconvenient and a hindrance to those who don't have their own home Wi-Fi connections, but, like most of the developed world, still rely on Internet access for their well-being.

Blocking Tor connections is a whole other story. Blocking connections to the Tor network is possible, but doing so would require France to adopt the tactics of one of the countries in the world most hostile to Internet freedom: China.