That’s Cassidy’s fear:
Clearly, France needs to beef up security around potential terrorist targets, as well as take a look at its internal security agencies, which failed to keep tabs on three attackers who were known to be supporters of violent jihad. But there’s also a possibility that the French government will overreact, plunging France and other European nations into conflict with the millions of Muslims living in their own countries—something that organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS would love to see, and whose consequences might be disastrous.
From the images of the past few days, it’s plain that last week’s attacks have riled up the French public in a way that is, in some ways, redolent of the aftermath of the U.S. reaction to 9/11. On Sunday, millions of people took to the streets of Paris and other French cities. In addition to holding up signs that read “Je Suis Charlie,” many of the marchers were carrying the French tricolor and singing “La Marseillaise.” This outburst of patriotism was entirely predictable, and, in some ways, it is to be commended. But patriotism blends easily into nationalism, which, in turn, can be used to justify illiberal actions. In a country that has already banned the burka from public places, whose treatment of its immigrant population has long been a blot on its reputation, and where an explicitly anti-immigrant party, the National Front, gained twenty-five per cent of the vote in recent elections to the European Parliament, the potential for a lurch toward oppressive and counterproductive policies cannot be entirely dismissed.
Victoria Turk is concerned by the initial EU response:
Following the terrorist attacks on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the EU has issued a joint statement to condemn the act and work to prevent extremism and safeguard freedom of expression. The leaders’ suggestion? More surveillance and internet censorship. …
To suggest that absolutely everything on the internet should be protected—no matter what—would be naive, but it’s not the first time that politicians have tested the limits. In the UK, there has been discussion around flagging “extremist” content on YouTube that is deemed “unsavoury” but, crucially, might not break the law.
Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, generally known by his stage name Dieudonné, posted “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly” to his Facebook account in the days after the attack. His message seemed designed to offend: Playing on the #JeSuisCharlie meme, it merged the name “Charle Hebdo” with that of Amedy Coulibaly, the man who killed four hostages in a kosher supermarket Friday. The post has since been deleted.
The 48-year-old Dieudonné is probably France’s most controversial comedian. His career began in the late 1990s when he worked in a comedy duo with his Jewish friend Élie Semoun. The pair poked fun at racial stereotypes and intolerance, but they fell out as Dieudonné began focusing more and more on France’s Jewish minority after 2002. Since then, Dieudonné’s act has frequently been accused of being anti-Semitic. It has also, however, made him popular.
Adam Chandler also covers the investigation of Dieudonné:
In identifying with both some of the victims and one of the shooters in last week’s attacks, Dieudonné’s statement, according to the prosecutor’s office, was being investigated on the grounds that it was “defending terrorism” rather than committing hate speech. Responding to the development, Dieudonné accused the government of persecuting him by banning his performances and treating him as “public enemy number one.”
What David Cameron thinks he’s saying is, “We will command all the software creators we can reach to introduce back-doors into their tools for us.” There are enormous problems with this: There’s no back door that only lets good guys go through it. If your Whatsapp or Google Hangouts has a deliberately introduced flaw in it, then foreign spies, criminals, crooked police (like those who fed sensitive information to the tabloids who were implicated in the hacking scandal—and like the high-level police who secretly worked for organised crime for years), and criminals will eventually discover this vulnerability. They—and not just the security services — will be able to use it to intercept all of our communications. That includes things like the pictures of your kids in your bath that you send to your parents to the trade secrets you send to your co-workers.
But this is just for starters. He doesn’t understand technology very well, so he doesn’t actually know what he’s asking for.
Friedersdorf questions the security benefits of such a plan:
[I]f Britain improbably succeeded in creating a society where its security services could read anything communicated online, if its citizens bore all the costs in the forms of decreased privacy, inferior technology, and vulnerability to abuses, would the country then be safe from terrorist attacks like the one in Paris? Of course not. Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators didn’t need the Internet to nearly succeed in blowing up parliament (nor were they stopped by signals intelligence). Terrorists will always find methods of communication that are relatively hard to intercept, whether communicating in code online or sending documents via bike messenger or notes via pigeon or through unwitting children.
There is, if all else fails, meeting face-to-face to plan a future murder.