I know what you’re thinking, fascism never left Europe. It’s true but it has been hidden under euphemisms like emergency powers, social democracies, and parliamentary procedures. But France is finally throwing off the visage of liberty, equality, and fraternity. With the Paris attacks as the excuse the French government is moving to silence those who would question it:
According to leaked documents from the Ministry of Interior the French government is considering two new pieces of legislation: a ban on free and shared Wi-Fi connections during a state of emergency, and measures to block Tor being used inside France.
The documents were seen by the French newspaper Le Monde. According to the paper, the new bills could be presented to parliament as soon as January 2016. The new laws are presumably in response to the attacks in Paris last month where 130 people were murdered.
The first proposal, according to Le Monde, would forbid free and shared Wi-Fi during a state of emergency. The new measure is justified by way of a police opinion, saying that it’s tough to track people who use public hotspots.
The second proposal is a little more gnarly: the Ministry of Interior is looking at blocking and/or forbidding the use of Tor completely. Blocking people from using Tor within France is technologically quite complex, but the French government could definitely make it difficult for the average user to find and connect to the Tor network. If the French government needs some help in getting their blockade set up, they could always talk to the only other country in the world known to successfully block Tor: China, with its Great Firewall.
This is just another feather in the hat of fascism that already includes detaining activists in their homes so they can’t exercise their supposed right to free speech and targeting members of a minority religion. But the target of these measures is very clear: removing the anonymity of the people the French government wishes to target.
Fortunately the French government is setting itself up for failure. Tor has proven to be a difficult target for tyrannical governments to suppress. Every time an effective means of censoring Tor traffic is implemented a workaround is also implemented. Open Wi-Fi access points are easy to shutdown until the network is decentralized. Finding and shutting down every node in a large mesh network would be extremely expensive. In addition to taking a great deal of time and money it would also divert a sizable amount of labor from other suppression activities. And there’s no guarantee the French government would be able to find and tear down new nodes faster than activists could replace them. If the people of France are smart they’ll start working on their own version of Guifi.net.