France is an oddball in terms of internet freedom. Historically speaking, there was often a focus on preserving a sense of cultural distinction in France, and this is apparent in the sanctions and actions of the country. On the one hand, there are great online options offered for those who wish to visit and inform themselves – we are talking about probably the most popular tourist destination, after all. But when it comes to online content that is foreign to France, deemed not public or is based on business rather than the content itself, things get a little more interesting. Very specific laws were passed and are in effect about dealing with copyright infringement and the judiciary system for offenders of French internet laws. While content inside the country borders enjoys very good access conditions, these sanctions place French online content itself under restrictions, and not the availability of it.
Best VPN Services for France of 2020
|Editor's Choice 2020|
Using a French IP
France, as one of the most visited destinations in the world is bound to attract a significant online audience as well. Partially because of this, there are virtually no restrictions about accessing general information about the country. Tourism in France is customized enough to foreigners that it does not necessitate the usage of a French IP to inform yourself. Expats do not suffer from too much disadvantages. Still, content that is not from France and is purchased is usually geoblocked. For French content viewed outside the country, there are alternatives used. It might be restricted entirely, partially (like Eurosport that has a paid online streaming service and also a bit less informative, free side) or there is no restriction at all (general information is open for the world to see, for example).
French Online Privacy Laws
In terms of legal background, France is a dark horse in the sense that the freedom of the internet in their country was and is regulated in very specific matters. Copyright is one of these topics. The Hadopi laws of 2009 permit the termination of internet connection anywhere inside France, for any user, as long as they illegally downloaded copyrighted content.
France generally opposes less lenient internet policies. Their three strikes system has been introduced since 2010. It bears the capacity to essentially ban users from internet access after their third misbehavior. Furthermore, website filtering is active in France, with the main reason being taking stance against child pornography. This is highly suspicious, as even before 2010, there were other ways to bypass regular filters. This gives capacity for the country to potentially apply a regular filter to all website-based content. This is bad news, especially for people who are not necessarily adept at internet usage. Since VPN providers help bypass website filters, they offer a gateway to any content on the web.
Internet Censorship in France
There have been curious cases of internet censorship in France. In the winter of 2013, a French advocacy group filed a suit against Twitter, and French court demanded the personal information of a user who made anti-Semitic comments on a feed. The posts were removed, but since Twitter does not have any company relations with France, there were no grounds on which a French court could sanction them.
In the spring of the same year, the French intelligence agency Direction générale de la sécurité intérieure (DGSI) forced the deletion of a Wikipedia article about the Military radio-station of Pierre-sur Haute, claiming it contained classified military information. What is important to note here is that French officials seem to be very closely monitoring the information on public display inside their country. However, response of a perceived misbehavior is usually met with heavy retaliation. This makes France more suitable for casual usage. Another testament to the above mixed attitude of the country is that France has been on the surveillance list of the RWB (Reporters Without Borders) since 2011.
Streaming Services in France
France is occasionally selective about the streaming services it allows within its borders. In 2013, 16 sites were blocked on the grounds of copyright infringement: including DPSteam, Alloseven and Fifostreaming. Furthermore, the availability of French television and entertainment online is not the best. Expats are often reliant on VPN or just SmartDNS services to access online content from the country of their origin. All of this is curious, as France’s efforts seem to be heading towards creating a culturally enclosed online domain, where information is often regulated. The situation is not dire, though: news and general information have good availability, for example.
As with most streaming services deemed popular, France also suffers a drawback in the availability of these, as Netflix is available in France but boasts a rather limited library due to TV rights being sold to French companies. Blockbuster House of Cards produced by Netflix in-house for instance isn’t available on the French version of Netflix because Canal+ has the rights of airing it in France.
Free French VPN Trials
We would like to recommend VPN solutions to you to enjoy the same access to French online content as anybody else inside the country. Our main criterion for selection was unblocking. VyprVPN for example offer their zero-knowledge DNS solution, VyprDNS, as its own development aimed at unblocking streaming sites. Furthermore, they are based in Switzerland, thus providing a lenient legal background for VPN connections. The situation is the same with Romania’s ibVPN. Their SmartDNS service – ibDNS – is implemented into their clients and is easy to find and use. With ibDNS it specializes in unblocking websites. Even though their IP addresses are not hidden, you can get along well if you do concentrate on unblocking. Using their VPN solution you can rest assured your true IP is hidden when browsing the web from within France or elsewhere in the world.