Off-line confinement: France bans first ever internet user from web surfing

A French court has sentenced an internet user to 15 days without online access. The French digital minister recently commented that cutting off internet was “like cutting off their water”, and it would prove difficult to enforce.

The landmark ruling was issued at the end of May, and is likely both the first and last time it will ever happen. An appeal against the case is possible for the ten days after the ruling.

The sentence was first revealed by website PCInpact this week and confirmed Friday by the government officials responsible for administering the law. The individual in question remains unnamed.

The ban was supplemented by a 600 euro fine, after the user was convicted under a “three strikes” rule for repeatedly illegally downloading material.

Despite the offender being cut off from the “public” web, he is still able to access services deemed “essential” such as his email.

The impossibility of such a filter being created was emphasized by the president of Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL): “All the operators do not have the technical capacity to carry out such a selective suspension,” said Alex Türk.

French Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti told PC Inpact that the law ensuring a potential internet ban on repeated offenders was close to being dissolved, with the likelihood that it would be replaced by the imposition of fines.

The monitoring of illegal downloads will soon be transferred to French media regulator CSA (Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel), who are more inclined towards the financial penalty.

“In this day and age it’s not possible to cut off someone’s Internet access. It’s like cutting off their water,” French Digital Minister Fleur Pellerin said at a press conference in Sweden last week.

Internet bans in the US have been repeatedly overturned, with a 2010 court stating that an internet ban imposed on a sex offender was “substantively unreasonable” and “aggressively interferes with the goal of rehabilitation,” according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The European Court of Human Rights asserted the right of individuals to access the internet in 2012, stating that it has “now become one of the principal means of exercising the right to freedom of expression and information.”