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French ISPs stage cyberspace sit-in

Angered by what they say is a case of French authorities shooting the messengers, the country's major Internet service providers have decided to block access to the Usenet portion of the Net.

Angered by what they say is a case of French authorities shooting the messengers, the country's major Internet service providers have decided to block access to the Usenet portion of the Net.

The saga began Monday when two managers of French Internet service providers were taken into custody and their equipment was seized by police for allegedly allowing child pornography to be distributed on their services in Net newsgroups.

The two executives, who work for World-Net and FranceNet, were held responsible for pornographic material distributed on alt.binaries newsgroups run over their services. The French police held them in custody for 48 hours before releasing them, but the men face the possibility of up to three years in jail.

The arrests prompted the Association of French Internet Professionals (AFPI) to call for a complete blackout of French Usenet sites for a week. ISPs have taken up the cause, but will continue to provide access to other parts of the Net, according to the Associated Press.

"If service providers, who are simply facilitating access to a network, can be imprisoned for a simple piece of evidence produced in Australia or Canada, then we are witnessing--pure and simple--the death of the Internet in France," said Patrick Robin, president of the French ISP ImagiNet, in a press release explaining why ImagiNet has cut off access to newsgroups.

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