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France, internet, Nazi, Yahoo, Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris


This article examines the French court order requiring Yahoo to prevent French Internet users from accessing images of Nazi memorabilia available for auction on the company's American web site. The article uses the French case to challenge the popular belief that an entirely borderless Internet favors democratic values. The article starts from the premise that while the Internet enables actors to reach a geographically dispersed audience, the Internet should not change the accountability of those actors for their conduct within national borders. The article shows that Yahoo's extensive business in France justifies the application of France's democratically chosen law and argues that the decision has important normative implications for pluralistic democracy on the global network. Namely, the decision promotes technical changes in the Internet architecture that empower democratic states to be able to enforce their freely chosen public policies within their territories. At the same time, the infrastructure changes will not enhance the ability of non-democratic states to pursue repressive policies within their territories in violation of international law. The article shows the French decision as a maturing of the Internet regulatory framework and argues that the policy rules embedded in the technical infrastructure must recognize values adopted by different states and must not be dictated by technical elites.

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