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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Paris Wants Yahoo to Block Nazi Sites

PARIS -- A state prosecutor urged a court Monday to appoint independent computer experts to test Yahoo Inc.'s assertion that it is technically impossible to block French access to web sites selling Nazi memorabilia.

In May, a French court ordered the Internet portal to stop French web users from taking part in any auctions on its web site that deal in Nazi items.

The ruling set a precedent for legal intervention on the web that Yahoo said could endanger the global development of the Internet.

Prosecutor Bernard Fos said Monday the court should impose financial penalties on Yahoo while experts studied the case.

Lawyers acting for anti-racist groups accused Yahoo of acting in bad faith and said it should pay a daily fine of 200,000 euros ($186,900) during the assessment period.

"We're demanding the hard disk be cleaned in the name of morality and French law. If access cannot be filtered, it should be suppressed," said lawyer Stephane Lilti.

Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez said he would rule on the requests on Aug. 11.

He told Yahoo in an earlier hearing that the auctions were "an offense to the collective memory" of the country and ordered it to report back on Monday to explain the measures it had taken to bar French users from the online auctions.

Yahoo lawyers told the court that while the firm wanted to respect French law, it was technically impossible for it to separate French users from other Internet surfers.

"With the current state of technology, it is impossible to find a solution without destroying the quality of services offered," Yahoo lawyer Christophe Pecnard told the court.

The Yahoo case is the first time that a French court has issued an order to a foreign Internet company to block access.

"The sort of precedent that this ruling might apply for the whole Internet is that web publishers must make sure their content complies with as many laws as there are countries," said Philippe Guillanton, Yahoo France director.

The site offers hundreds of Nazi, neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan objects for daily auction. Rights groups say the items include clothes from concentration camp inmates, replica canisters of gas used to kill the inmates, swastika armbands, films, Nazi uniforms, daggers and medals.

The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism and the Union of French Jewish Students, or UEJF, took California-based Yahoo to court in April to try to block French access to the auctions.

"Yahoo has become the primary supermarket for Nazi enthusiasts," said UEJF president Ygal El Harrar.

"We are facing a strategic choice f do we want the Internet to become a means to promote education and culture in the third millennium, or a medium for hate?" he said.