Net users and Internet service providers in France mounted a last-ditch protest against a piece of legislation entitled A Bill to Promote Confidence in the Digital Economy, which entered its final reading in the French national assembly in January.

Among other things, it will oblige service providers to filter Net traffic for illegal content, with criminal sanctions for companies that fail to block pedophile images, material excusing crimes against humanity and incitement to racial hatred.

Internet access providers are unwilling to take on responsibility for policing French Net users. Such a measure would be the first taken by a democratic state, the Association of French Internet Access and Service Providers (AFA) wrote in an open letter to French deputies. Other countries that had considered Net censorship, such as Canada and Australia, had rejected it, they said. The letter, signed by the chairmen of 10 of France’s largest Internet access providers, added that filtering technology is just as likely to block legal content as illegal content, and asked the deputies to reject this part of the bill.