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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 March 2007, 12:44 GMT
French to limit violent net clips
Mobile phone screen showing video camera
'Happy slapping' is often recorded using mobile phones
French people could be prevented from posting images or videos of violent acts online under new laws.

Part of a new youth delinquency law targets "happy slapping", the recording of violent acts to entertain the attacker's friends.

The law makes it illegal for anyone but professional journalists to film and broadcast violent events in France.

Press freedom advocates say the ban could restrict citizens reporting on subjects such as police brutality.

Julien Pain, head of the internet freedom desk at the French press advocacy Reporters Without Borders, said that although the law was written with happy slapping in mind, "it's drafted much wider than that".

"It could prevent not only happy slapping, but videos of police brutality," he said.

According to Mr Pain's translation, the law specifically exempts those whose profession is to inform the public.

However, he added that in practice, the law may not have any chilling effects.

"I don't think it's that bad because I don't think a judge in France would sentence someone for taping police brutality," he said.

New regulation

The new law changes how French regulation of violent content on the internet operates.

Previously, government officials would go to the internet service provider or hosting company to have them remove the content. Now officials can go directly to the individuals that published it.

In addition to the delinquency law, the French National Assembly is set to consider a government decree that would create a commission to give internet service providers and websites quality labels.

The members of the proposed commission would be appointed by the Government.

Vicky Taylor, Editor of interactivity at the BBC News website, indicated that a law like this probably wouldn't change how a large news site publishes user generated content.

She said the BBC is often sent images purporting to be individual's photos of police brutality that are actually either faked or press agency pictures.

Even when these images are legitimate, the BBC "wouldn't publish pictures of violence anyway," she said.

BBC policy states that it will not publish anything that infringes on local laws.

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