French crackdown on 'hate speech and defending terrorism'

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

In this Jan. 11, 2014 file photo, French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala arrives for his news conference in a theater in Paris. Dieudonne, who popularized an arm gesture that resembles a Nazi salute and who has been convicted repeatedly of racism and anti-Semitism, was in detention Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015 after posting comments on Facebook—since deleted—that seemed to support the attackers who left 17 dead in the Paris region. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

CBS News, among others, reports on this:

[French a]uthorities said 54 people had been arrested for hate speech and defending terrorism since terror attacks killed 20 people in Paris last week, including three gunmen. The crackdown came as Charlie Hebdo's defiant new issue sold out before dawn around Paris, with scuffles at kiosks over dwindling copies of the satirical weekly that fronted the Prophet Muhammad anew on its cover.

See also TheLocal.fr, which notes that "a girl as young as 15 [was] apprehended by police for referring to the Kouachis as 'my brothers'"—and, of course, most prominently, the Dieudonne prosecution. Jogchum Vrielink, coordinator of the Centre for Discrimination Law at the University of Leuven, also passes along this French article about someone being sentenced to six months in jail for saying,

They killed Charlie, and I have had a good laugh. In the past they have killed Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Mohamed Merah and many [of my] brothers… If I didn't have a father or mother, I would go train in Syria.

Many have condemned this (see, e.g., Alexandra Petri (Washington Post, ComPost)), and I agree; for more on one of the reasons why—there are others as well, but I won't belabor them here—see this censorship envy post.