"We Are All Guilty"

French Internet Providers Go To Jail

Monsieur Benveniste (10k)
François Benveniste,
spokesman for French operator's
at presse conference today.
Paris:- Wednesday, 8. May 1996:- Under orders of a judge investigating pedophile circles in France, the directors of two internet service providers, were arrested by members of the Gendarmerie Nationale early Monday morning.

Today, during a professional Internet exposition held at Le Défense, the French Association of Internet Providers (AFPI) held a news conference to denounce the judicial act. François Benveniste, spokesman for the group - one of whose members was jailed - said, "We are all guilty."

He was referring to the Newsgroups sector of the Internet; a sector that contains six to eight thousand groups. Mr Benveniste said that, under current law, there was no way for a French operator to provide access to these groups, because the law assumed that the provider was responsible for the content - but given the volume of it, no operator could possibly monitor the contents of more than 100,000 electronic documents daily.

He called upon authorities to sit down with operators, to formulate an legal statue that would permit them to operate legally - without fear of being jailed.

Mr. Benveniste, director of the major provider, Calvacom, along with two other heads of the AFPI - Mr. Patrick Robin of Imaginet and Mr. Jerôme Lécat of Iway, announced the closure of all newsgroups - starting immediately, until Wednesday 15. May - as a symbolic gesture.

National operator France Telecom, that provides the backbone service 'Transpac' and has recently started its own 'Wannadoo' service, is moving in concert with the private operators - as the same laws apply to all.

What remains unanswered, is how two particular operators were chosen out of about 48 in all, when practically all of the operators carry the same newsgroups, including state-owned France Telecom.

Another unanswered question is why this action has come at this time; when the operator's association has been holding talks with the Minister of Telecoms, François Fillon for some time, and was recently assured that no access provider would be held responsible for content.

Meanwhile, after considerable confiscations of equipment, the two men jailed have been released, but remain under judicial authority.

[Follow up in Warning: Our Art May Be Your Porn]

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