France presents a new anti-terrorism bill that increases surveillance of extremist websites

On Wednesday, the French government unveiled a new bill against terrorism and intelligence aimed at better preventing attacks, in particular through greater surveillance of extremist websites.

The bill, which had been prepared for several months, was formally presented at a cabinet meeting just days after a French police officer was killed at her police station in which authorities are investigating as a terrorist attack.

At a press conference, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the text would strengthen French intelligence’s power to look at people’s online activities.

Extremists “use smaller and smaller telephone lines and more and more internet connections,” he said.

One measure will expand the use of algorithms by French intelligence services to track extremists online, a method already tested since 2015 to monitor messaging programs.

Darmanin said the use of algorithms in particular will enable intelligence services to detect someone who has visited extremist websites several times.

The Tunisian citizen who killed a police officer in Rambouillet, south of Paris, on Friday had seen extremist videos just before carrying out his attack, an anti-terrorism prosecutor said.

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Prime Minister Jean Castex emphasized that the bill has been part of the government’s broader fight against terrorism since the beginning of French President Emmanuel Macron’s mandate in 2017.

Several security laws have been enacted, about 1,900 additional intelligence services have been created and 36 attacks have been countered in the last four years, Castex said. The government also created in 2019 the job as national prosecutor for counter-terrorism to better coordinate investigations related to attacks.

Darmanin said it was becoming more difficult to track down extremists because attacks were no longer carried out by people who had previously fought in Syria or Iraq.

In the midst of other measures, the bill would also give the authorities greater power to strictly restrict the movements of persons convicted of terrorism for up to two years after leaving prison.


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