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The ruling confirmed a court decision of May 22 and followed a feasibility study by a trio of international experts, which concluded that a filtering system based on browsers’ nationality, as revealed automatically by their email address (in 70 per cent of cases) or by a voluntary declaration of nationality, was viable if not totally foolproof.

Yahoo have been given three months to comply with the ruling and will face a fine of Fr100,000 per day if this deadline is not respected.

Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez noted in his ruling that it “would not cost a great deal” for Yahoo to withdraw Nazi objects from its auction site altogether, and that such a move would conform to the “ethical and moral requirements of all democratic societies”.

Yahoo have until December 4 to appeal against the ruling, although such an appeal would not be suspensive. Philippe Guillanton, head of Yahoo France, said the decision was “liable to create an unmanageable precedent” as all Websites “will now have to take into account legislation in over 180 countries”.

Speaking a few days before the ruling at a symposium on “racism and the Internet”, French Justice Minister Marylise Lebranchu warned that “the Internet is not beyond the law... the Web’s international nature, and the fact that operators are based abroad, are not obstacles to French law. If the contentious message is accessible on French soil, French penal law applies.”