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Nazi web site gag 'impossible'
PARIS, France -- Internet shoppers in France could be prevented from gaining access to online Nazi memorabilia sales, but the system would never be fail-safe, computer experts have told a French court.
The court ordered Internet giant Yahoo Inc in May to block French web surfers from outlawed English-language sites where items like Nazi uniforms and SS badges are sold by auction.
The judge subsequently asked a panel of three specialists to verify if the ruling was viable after Yahoo asserted that it was technologically impossible to cut off French Internet users from web sites governed by less restrictive U.S. laws.
The trio delivered their findings on Monday, arguing that while Yahoo itself could not screen all the pages that it hosted, a filter system registering keywords could block access to Nazi sales to 90 percent of French web users.
However, one of the three independent experts, Winton Cerf from the U.S., said he disapproved of any attempts at censorship and added that the auction sites would simply come up with new key words to get past the filters.
Any attempt to block out these new words would simply snarl the system, he told reporters.
"From the very beginning, we knew that people would try to control information on the Internet. Happily the net is not very cooperative and we don't have many (censorship) tools," he said.
"What we can do is make sure that there are a lot of good items of information to counterbalance the bad."
Under French law, it is illegal to exhibit or sell objects with racist overtones and Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez ruled in May that the Nazi auctions were "an offence to the collective memory of the country."
It was the first time that a French court had issued such a gagging order on a foreign Internet company and Yahoo said the ruling jeopardised the future of the information highway.
The French-language portal www.yahoo.fr does not carry the Nazi auctions, but French users can click onto the U.S. sister site and find Nazi and neo-Nazi material up for auction, which is allowed by the U.S. freedom-of-speech law.
Judge Gomez, who has rejected Yahoo's argument that French courts do not have the power to impose French law on the English-language portal Yahoo.com, will deliver a fresh ruling in the case on November 2
Reuters contributed to this report.
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