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The experts – Britain’s Ben Laurie, France’s François Wallon (computer expert at the Paris Court of Appeal), and American Vinton Cerf, described in the French press as “founding fathers of the Internet” – presented their conclusions to Paris High Court Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez in a court hearing on November 6.

Gomez appointed the experts on August 11 to examine the technical feasibility of his May 22 ruling that Yahoo should prevent French Web users accessing sales of Nazi memorabilia on their American Website. The case against Yahoo was brought by LICRA (Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme) and UEJF (Union de Etudiants Juifs de France). Sales of Nazi memorabilia are banned in France, and absent from Yahoo’s French Website.

Browser’s address

The experts’ report said any filtering system would depend on identifying the browser’s address. They said that, according to the Association des Fournisseurs d’Accès Français, the addresses of 80 per cent of French browsers could be known automatically, but those of the remaining 20 per cent could only be ascertained by asking browsers to declare their nationality, a method open to abuse.

The experts believe that the problems of extending a filtering system to private sites, such as those of pro-Nazi “revisionists”, would be “insurmountable”.
The experts also said that, although key words could be blocked by search engines, Websites could circumvent the problem by using related questions or phrases. Vinton Cerf warned the hearing that introducing a blocking system on the Internet, “which now has 100 million sites, and will have a billion in five years’ time”, could entail “blocking of the whole system”.
The judge’s ruling is expected on November 20.