happy slap

David Bergdahl dlbrgdhl at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 8 20:00:58 UTC 2007

CNN has a story online today abt the French ban on happy slapping, a British
import, in which kids w/cell phone cameras record--and subsequently display
online--an attack on someone, usually someone known, for the purpose of
degrading the public image of the person attacked.  A colleague is designing
the stage set for a play about happy slapping, which is how I heard abt it.
The practice has spread from its London origin: Wikipedia gives a chronology
beginning June 2005.

Happy slap' crackdown sparks row  POSTED: 1:45 p.m. EST, March 8, 2007  Story
Highlights• New law in France forbids filming and Net posting of real-world
• Critics call it a clumsy, near-totalitarian effort to battle "happy
• Violators of the law will be subject to up to 5 years' jail and €75,000 in

*PARIS, France* (AP) -- A new law in France makes it a crime -- punishable
by up to five years in prison -- for anyone who is not a professional
journalist to film real-world violence and distribute the images on the

Critics call it a clumsy, near-totalitarian effort by authorities to battle
"happy slapping" -- the youth fad of filming violent acts -- which most
often they have provoked themselves -- and spreading the images on the Web
or between mobile phones.

The measure, tucked deep into a vast anti-crime law that took effect
Wednesday, took media advocates by surprise with what they say is an
undesirable side effect: trampling on freedom of expression.

Experts said the law is the first of its kind in Europe. France made
headlines years ago by ordering U.S.-based online company Yahoo to pay a
fine of about $15 million for displaying Nazi memorabilia for sale -- in
violation of French law.

The new provision takes on "happy slapping," a phenomenon whose name belies
the gravity of the attacks. It mostly involves youths, and the victims often
are strangers.

Violators of the law, passed in parliament in February, will be subject to
up to five years in prison and €75,000 in fines ($98,600). It was championed
by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is a top contender in France's
presidential election in April and May.

The law was published in the government's Official Journal on Wednesday,
bringing it into effect, after the Constitutional Council gave its final
approval over the weekend.

Ligue Odebi, an association that seeks to protect freedom of expression on
the Internet, said the measure will also hinder citizens' abilities to
expose police brutality.

"This makes France the Western country that most infringes on freedom of
expression and information -- particularly on the Internet," the group said
in a statement on its Web site, www.odebi.org

"Identifying uploaders (of such images) would require the creation of a
totalitarian surveillance of the Net," the group said.

Ligue Odebi noted that the council's approval Saturday fell on the 16th
anniversary of the March 3, 1991, beating of motorist Rodney King by Los
Angeles police officers in a scene captured on amateur video -- a case that
sparked a national outcry in the United States.

The French law says that anyone who "knowingly" films illegal acts of
violence and distributes the images can be considered an accomplice -- but
that professional journalists are exempt.

French authorities have been seeking new ways to combat youth violence after
a wave of rioting, car burnings and violence mostly in poor neighborhoods on
the fringe of Paris and other cities in 2005.

Media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said it understood the
government's need to crack down on "happy slapping," but feared the law
draws a "dangerous" distinction that would punish "regular citizens" for
doing what journalists are allowed to do.

"The sections of this law supposedly dealing with 'happy slapping' in fact
have a much broader scope," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.
"Posting videos online showing violence against people could now be banned,
even if it were the police carrying out the violence."

The measure has implications for online video sites like YouTube, or
France's Dailymotion.com: Authorities could ask them to identify the sources
of images made available through their sites.

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