Posted Wednesday, May 24, 2000

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Wednesday, May 24, 2000

French courts rule on another Nazi-oriented web site

The court rejected an effort to ensure an internet provider kept Nazi sites offline in the future. A Jewish group criticized the decision.

Reuters PARIS - A French court rejected a suit over a neo-Nazi Web site on a local Internet service provider today, two days after another court ruled that Yahoo France had to block access to U.S.-based sales of Nazi memorabilia.

The Jewish student group that brought the suit expressed shock at the decision and complained the court had taken no steps to bar the portal from hosting Nazi sites in the future.

The Union of Jewish Students of France (UEJF) had asked the court in Nanterre, near Paris, to order the Multimania portal to tighten up its internal controls after a neo-Nazi site opened on the system earlier this year.

The court accepted Multimania's explanation that it did not knowingly incite racial hatred because it did not realize the site "NSDAP" contained neo-Nazi material.

Multimania shut down the site when it learned that "NSDAP" is the German acronym for Hitler's National Socialist German Workers Party and then saw that the site contained Nazi propaganda.

UEJF President Ygal el Harrar said in a statement that he was "profoundly shocked and disappointed" by the ruling, especially the court's finding that the acronym "NSDAP" was a specialized term a normal citizen would not be expected to know.

"If 50 years after the war, the name of the Nazi party means nothing, what will it be like in another 50 years?" he asked. "Has the march toward forgetting already started?" The UEJF, which cosponsored the suit against Yahoo France, said it would probably appeal the judgement.

Police said a youth living in northern France had been traced as the originator of the site and might be charged with inciting racial hatred.

A Paris court ruled Monday that the French subsidiary of Yahoo! Inc had to block access in France to U.S.-based auction sites that were selling Nazi, neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan objects such as films, swastikas, uniforms, daggers and medals.

Yahoo France said the unprecedented ruling, which gave it two months to comply, could set a dangerous precedent for Internet users around the world.

The French Internet Service Providers Association (AFA) said in a statement that "it is an illusion to want to enjoin a foreign provider to deny access for French citizens to material that is allowed in its country but actionable in France."

"More importantly," it said, "such an injunction would create an extremely dangerous precedent for French sites, a number of which infringe on the political, religious or moral rules of foreign countries, especially non-democratic ones."

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