PARIS – French internet providers have until Thursday to block an openly racist and anti-Semitic website, or face a fine of 10,000 euros ($11,400) for every day they allow users to access it.
The ultimatum comes from Paris’ outgoing public prosecutor, François Molins, who summoned all of the country’s internet service providers to the French capital last month and told them to block the Démocratie Participative website.
Rife with 1930s-style caricatures depicting Jews as crooks and international conspirators, the far-right site is run by 37-year-old Frenchman Boris Le Lay.
The site claims to be “the most widely read website by unabashed white youth,” and publishes articles daily with blatantly anti-Semitic names such as “The Criminal and Murderous Fanaticism of the Jewish Race Exposed to the World” and “While Advocating for the Invasion of Europe, World Jewry Claims Israel as a Racist Jewish State.” Any pictures of Jewish men or women also feature a yellow star and the word “Jude.”
A source close to Molins’ office told Haaretz, “We have a list of anti-Semitic and hateful websites that we monitor and have sued already. But this one is by far the most extreme we have ever encountered.”
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A spokesman from Orange, France’s largest internet service provider, told Haaretz that the company “would comply with [the prosecutor’s] decision, and will implement it on time.”
There have been numerous legal attempts to remove Démocratie Participative since it launched in 2016, but all have failed. One of the biggest stumbling blocks is that the website is hosted by a U.S. company, Cloudflare, which cites the U.S. First Amendment and its protection of free speech.
Ironically, Cloudflare found itself at the center of a media storm last year when it dropped neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer and found itself being criticized in some circles for violating its standard policy of content neutrality.
“The United States has a different approach to freedom of expression,” the source close to the prosecutor’s office told Haaretz. “In France, such content is forbidden because it advocates a philosophy that isn’t ours.”
Unable to get Cloudfare to act, the impasse has now forced the Parisian public prosecutor to take the unusual step of threatening to fine the French internet providers directly.
Le Lay has developed a sizeable following on the French far right and has 124,000 followers on Facebook in the past decade or so. He was originally seen as being close to Christian conservative groups, and in 2006 created an association to promote links between Israelis, French Jews and his native region of Brittany, northern France. The association said in its mission statement that its main purpose was to resist against “leftists” and Islamism in Brittany, in order to protect Christians and Jews.
But Le Lay’s views subsequently became more nationalistic.
In 2007, he pulled off a prank on eBay by offering to auction off the entire country of France. Le Lay specified to potential buyers that the French Republic was “composed of smaller nations that are being stifled,” referring to his region of Brittany.
However, it was when he began associating with Kémi Séba (birth name Capo Chich), who had previously founded a group inspired by the ideology of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, that Le Lay’s anti-Semitism became more pronounced. In 2008, Séba formed Movement of Those Damned By Imperialism – an organization with ties to Lebanese terror group Hezbollah – and the group’s “anti-imperialist” stance was widely seen as cover for its virulently anti-Semitic ethos.
Now online for two years, Le Lay’s French-language Démocratie Participative website – which bills itself as “The website most committed to freedom of expression” – publishes articles that range from praise of Nazi Germany to diatribes against multiculturalism in the West.
YouTube recently deleted Le Lay’s video channel, which featured some 140 videos, after users filed complaints about its offensive content. And although Le Lay has been convicted several times for advocating racial discrimination – being sentenced to 6 months in prison in 2015; 2 years in 2016; and two-and-and-half years in 2017 – he has successfully evaded the French authorities after moving to Japan in 2015.
Despite 13 warrants and an Interpol Red Notice being issued last January informing all member states about these warrants, Japan cannot officially send Le Lay back to France as there is no extradition treaty between the countries. As a result, Le Lay remains out of reach and largely free to publish anything he wants.
Ilana Toledano, a 27-year-old French activist, is one of the many victims of Le Lay’s anti-Semitic attacks. She runs an online documentary project that tries to debunk misconceptions about refugees in France by giving them a voice. Le Lay responded to her efforts by publishing a picture of Toledano with a crooked nose glued to her face, in an article called “A Sephardic Nymphomaniac Wants the White World to be Flooded with Aliens.”
“Someone reported this link to me on Twitter last January,” Toledano told Haaretz. “I’d never suffered from anti-Semitism before and thought it was a joke – before I realized what it really was,” she said, adding: “Now this article appears in the first results when you Google my name.”
Toledano is filing a complaint against Le Lay’s website, along with dozens of other French victims, her lawyer tells Haaretz. “I don’t want this to go unpunished,” Toledano says, adding she is confident that the website will be taken down soon.
Le Lay did not respond to requests for comment for this article.