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France: Constitutional Court Strikes Down Prohibition on Accessing Terrorist Websites

(Jan. 17, 2018) On December 15, 2017, France’s Conseil constitutionnel (Constitutional Court) struck down a legislative provision prohibiting access to websites that support terrorism. (Conseil Constitutionnel, Decision No. 2017-682 QPC, Dec. 15, 2017, CONSEIL CONSTITUTIONNEL.) The provision, which was part of a security law adopted in February 2017, prohibited “habitual” access to websites that supported or called for acts of terrorism and contained images or representations of intentional killings, unless that website was accessed for “legitimate reasons,” such as journalistic or academic research. (Loi n° 2017-258 du 28 février 2017 relative à la sécurité publique [Law No. 2017-258 of 28 February 2017 Regarding Public Security] art. 24, LEGIFRANCE). The Conseil constitutionnel found that this provision was contrary to the freedom to communicate ideas and opinions as enshrined in article 11 of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which is considered part of the French Constitution. (Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen de 1789 [Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789] art. 11, English translation, CONSEIL CONSTITUTIONNEL.)