Impending French law threatens the free internet, Mozilla warns

The French government is close to passing a new law that threatens the free internet, Mozilla has warned.

Named SREN, the bill ostensibly aims to fight online fraud, but its approach has sparked alarm. The concerns centre on a requirement for web browsers to block sites listed on a government-provided list. Critics fear that the plan will turn browsers into censorship tools.

Mozilla, which makes the Firefox browser, is among the most vociferous opponents of the bill. According to the non-profit, the rules would be disastrous for the open internet and create a dangerous yardstick for autocrats.

“Such a move will overturn decades of established content moderation norms and provide a playbook for authoritarian governments that will easily negate the existence of censorship circumvention tools,” Udbhav Tiwari, head of global product policy at Mozilla, said in a blogpost.

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Tiwari advocates an alternative approach to tackling online fraud. Instead of integrating government block lists within browsers, he suggests using existing malware and phishing protection solutions.

“Forcing browsers to create capabilities that enable website blocking at the browser level is a slippery slope,” Tiwari added.

“While it might be leveraged only for malware and phishing in France today, it will set a precedent and create the technical capability within browsers for whatever a government might want to restrict or criminalize in a given jurisdiction forever.”

Thus far, the plea appears to have fallen on deaf ears. The French government is currently fast-tracking the bill, and aims to vote on the proposals this autumn. In an effort to stop the blocking rule from becoming law, Mozilla has launched a petition against the plan. You can sign it for yourself here.

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