A guide to internet censorship in France

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Online censorship in France is becoming an increasingly relevant topic; as various actors vie for control over the free flow of information. The importance of free and independent news and information outlets cannot be understated at present; and the influence of a free internet has a profound effect on public opinion.

This has been strongly evidenced by the WikiLeaks scandals; where a considerable amount of information was made available due to the actions of a Whistleblower. Without free media where this information could be disseminated; none of the stories would have come to light, and the public would have been none the wiser.

Also Read: Best VPNs for California

What’s Hidden from the Public?

Government authorities branded Edward Snowden a “terrorist” and seek to extradite him; so he can be sentenced for reporting factual information on high-profile individuals’ actions. It is widely believed that what was revealed constitutes a small percentage and that much more remains hidden from the public.

On a practical level, there is also considerable evidence that most online activity is now monitored. This is not just the case with censorship in China, which has a more overt and obvious internet censorship policy. It also happens in the USA and Europe, though on a much more subtle level.

The Edge-Providers’ Shake-hands With NSA

Google is essentially a massive database full of user queries often linked to a Gmail address (which is itself often linked with a phone number); corresponding to the user IP address. It is no secret that Google, Facebook, and other conglomerates voluntarily give user data to the NSA. Google even had, at one time, a special Dropbox server for the NSA.

Yahoo and Microsoft were also revealed to have collaborated with the NSA and given away data on private citizens. How much data actually passes from Google to the NSA is not actually known. However, it is safe to assume that the NSA has access to all of Google’s data, either directly or indirectly.

After all, the NSA was found to have conspired with AT&T to intercept the worlds transfer of communications; violating not just the privacy of US citizens (including Skype calls and messages) but potentially the residents of China, Europe, Russia, and the Middle East.

While this does not strictly constitute online censorship; the fact that activity is being monitored is often the first step and an integral part of the censorship process. In this way, powerful players can monitor current trends and patterns in terms of public beliefs and opinions. It can help them to select what to censor and to what degree.

 Why is Content Censored?

Online trends are very profitable as governments and corporations can mine data in order to gain market insights. It could become very accurate in the prediction of electoral processes. This data can also serve to empower the government to stamp out any activity; that it deems contrary to its established narrative. Again, this is most prominently evidenced in China; where public dissent is going to be nipped in the bud before it can become a threat to the established hierarchies. Tiananmen Square is an example, where university students were massacred because they exercised their right to peaceful protest.

Censorship on the Internet

The question remains as to how censored the internet actually is. It should be noted at the outset; that the internet is not a giant uniform place with a globally standardized series of norms and values. In some regions, censorship can be very severe (such as Turkey) and in others, such as the West; censorship is largely regarded as light. However, this is mainly because the depth of activity monitoring and tracking in the West is far more advanced and sophisticated than it is in the East and poorer regions.

Western facilities and their intelligence agencies are generally regarded as highly adept at extracting data on any individual. They can easily cross-correlate a vast database of information, such as Google searches; IP address on various devices, games consoles logins, flight tickets, debit card purchases, and much more. Any online device is essentially a signaling antenna where all activity is recorded. Your device represents a node on a large network (the internet) and when a hacker or government agency gains access to your node; they then can find out pretty much everything else. In the case of the government, they have near unlimited power with the assistance of the credit card agencies, social media sites, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and others who are being pushed to assist.

Countries with the Best and Worst Censorship

The Freedom conducted the most commonly cited and respected report on global internet censorship on the Net Reports, a movement created by the Freedom House Organization. These reports provide analytical data and research on various countries and assign each country a rating. These reports’ findings are indicated above, with Estonia and Iceland being regarded as the lease censored and China being the worst offender. The countries are also divided into freepartly free or not free. Of the 65 countries tracked in 2017, 25% were free, 43% were partly free, and 32% were not free.

The 2012 Report noted that Azerbaijan, Libya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Rwanda, Russia, and Sri Lanka were at particular risk of internet censorship. In terms of the best ratings, Iceland scored 6, Estonia 7, Canada 16, Germany 18, Australia 19, and the USA 19. China scored 88 (the highest), Syria 86, and Iran 82. Ethiopia, Cuba, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain also scored very poorly and are countries with high internet censorship rates. Additionally, censorship in Turkey, censorship in Indonesia, and censorship in China are getting worse, not better.

How Censored is Social Media?

Social media is becoming increasingly censored. WhatsApp is a popular messaging application that is being banned in various jurisdictions. This is primarily because governments cannot compel the service to hand over user data unlike FaceBook and other applications. Additionally, all WhatsApp messages are encrypted, so that intelligence agencies cannot listen in on private messages with as much ease as the majority of other messaging applications.

According to a Freedom on the Net article titled ‘Manipulating Social Media to Undermine Democracy‘, governments around the world have increased their attempts to censor social media. The state of internet censorship seems to be getting worse and social media is now a prime target for governments –

How Censored are Online News Sites?

In the West, there is not a large degree of censorship with regard to online news sites. Obviously, news sites such as the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times have certain agendas and biases, which are reflected in their writing. For example, they may often represent corporate interests. But they are not strictly censored by the government and are not kept on a tight leash.

Additionally, many alternative news outlets have cropped up on YouTube and other channels that are completely independent and free. While many are claiming that YouTube is censoring popular news channels along with social media, this is mainly paranoia and hysteria.

Censorship in Education

While censorship on social media is a matter of primary concern, there is also a significant amount of censorship in education. This can have a disastrous effect on children who are then unprepared for reality. Again, this can be observed most commonly in China, where students and even adults travel to democratic countries for the first time and find that the world is nothing like what they have been led to believe by the Chinese curriculum. This phenomenon is not just specific to China but happens in national schools worldwide to greater or lesser degrees.

Turkish dictator Erdogan fired 21,000 university professors, a common technique used by dictators who understand the impact a free education system can have on mainstream thought. These university professors will have studied European history. It is not possible to issue mainstream propaganda and rewrite history if there is an independent system exposing the truth of the situation.

How to Avoid Censorship

There are several ways to avoid censorship, some more effective than others. Consider the following to maintain a good digital practice. The fact of the matter is that censorship will increase, and you are going to need to protect your online identity as much as possible in the years to come.

The Virtual Private Network

The VPN is the most direct and effective means of avoiding censorship of all kinds. Essentially, the device you are using is given a new IP address in a different location. If you are in a country that bans a particular site, you can change your IP address using the VPN to a country that allows that site. They are often very simple to use and set up. All the information you send is encrypted, so anybody listening in will not be able to understand anything you are doing. However, they do tend to slow down internet speeds, which can be frustrating. But, there are some high-regarded VPNs to use in France.

Best VPN for France

1. NordVPN

VPN
NordVPN
Location
Panama
Servers
5,800+ in 59 Countries
Price
3.71$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
30 days
Website
  • Double encryption for added security
  • Automatic kill switch
  • A variety of platform support
  • Six simultaneous connections
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • 3-Day free trial
Get 68% off NordVPN (drops the price down to $3.71 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the NordVPN review for more test results and analysis.)

2. ExpressVPN

VPN
ExpressVPN
Location
British Virgin Islands
Servers
3,000+ in 94 Countries
Price
8.32$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
30 days
Website
  • Unlimited Bandwidth with Ultra Speed
  • Provides all VPN protocols OpenVPN (TCP, UDP), L2TP-IPsec, SSTP, and PPTP
  • Dedicated VPN Apps for Android & iOS
  • High-End Security with OpenVPN 256-bits
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • 3 simultaneous connections
Get 35% off ExpressVPN (drops the price down to $8.32 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the ExpressVPN review for more test results and analysis.)

3. Surfshark

VPN
Surfshark
Location
British Virgin Islands
Servers
1,700+ in 63+ Countries
Price
2.49$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
30 days
Website
  • AES 256-Bit Network Encryption
  • Chrome Extension Available
  • Kill-Switch functionality
  • A variety of platform support
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
Get 81% off Surfshark (drops the price down to $2.49 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the Surfshark review for more test results and analysis.)

4. CyberGhost

VPN
CybberGhostVPN
Location
Bucharest, Romania
Servers
6,200+ in 87+ Countries
Price
2.75$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
45 days
  • Uses AES 256 Encryption
  • Supports OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, and PPTP
  • DNS & IP Leak Protection
  • Uses 2048 Key & MD5 Authentication
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • Up to 7 Simultaneous Connections
Get 79% off CybberGhostVPN (drops the price down to $2.75 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the CybberGhostVPN review for more test results and analysis.)

5. Private Internet Access

VPN
Private Internet Access
Location
United States
Servers
3,320+ in 30+ Countries
Price
2.85$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
7 days
  • Offers all Protocols PPTP, OpenVPN and L2TP/IPSec including SOCKS5 Proxy
  • IPv6 Leak Protection & DNS Leak Protection
  • Kill-Switch functionality
  • Encrypted Wi-Fi Protection
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • 10 simultaneous connections
Get 71% off PIA (drops the price down to $2.85 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the PIA review for more test results and analysis.)

Conclusion

While the state of internet censorship is getting worse, the future is better than one might expect. With the rise of distributed ledger technology, the internet itself and social media and news sites are being decentralized. This means that platforms set up perform the functions of the internet and social media sites, but that is immune to government censorship. This is because they will run on algorithms and be owned by the public, on a series of servers distributed across the world.

In the meantime, best practices must be adhered to. A VPN is a necessity and is the first and most important step. After this, private messaging and social media sites should be selected over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Gmail should be replaced with an encrypted email service, and a private search engine should help keep your queries safe.

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