Privacy Advisor

Global Privacy Dispatches - France

May 1, 2009
Illicit content reporting platform

The French Ministry of Interior has introduced a new Web site called www.internet-signalement.gouv.fr that lets Internet users report illegal Internet content or behavior.
The site follows the creation of www.signal-spam.fr, for reporting spam, and www.mediateurdunet.fr for private or commercial controversy.

Appropriate use of the platform requires that the content being reported is prohibited and punishable by French law. It must also be public in the sense that any user could find it. Once such content is reported, police officers proceed to its legal characterization. If the police consider the content illicit, and if it has been created in France, a criminal investigation may be opened under the authority of the public prosecutor. If the content has been created in a foreign country, the case will be forwarded to Interpol, which will redirect it to the judicial authorities of the concerned country.

The platform FAQs state clearly that the tool must not be used to report private disputes, and that any malicious reporting of facts known to be untrue is subject to criminal sanctions and will be prosecuted. When Internet users fill in the reporting form, they have the option of identifying themselves or remaining anonymous. However, their IP addresses are collected in either case. If necessary for the purposes of the investigation, authorities can request Internet service providers to disclose information about the holder of the IP address, but only after obtaining the permission of a public prosecutor.

Approximately 299,005 Internet users had logged onto this platform 45 days after it launched in January and 7,267 suspicious cases have been identified. The French Minister of Interior welcomed this outcome, stating in Le Figaro that the “Internet has become the favourite playground of criminals of all kinds.”