6/19/2014France Goes After Anti-Speed Camera Facebook Posts
Prosecutor in France argues posting the location of a speed trap is a crime.
Prosecutors in Rodez, France have charged nine motorists for the alleged crime of posting the locations of speed traps on Facebook. The accused, ordered to court on September 9, are leaders of "The group that tells you where the police are in Aveyron," which has 8951 members.
The group's users routinely would provide brief, up-to-the-minute location updates after spotting motorcycle police setting up mobile speed camera traps in various hidden locations throughout the region. Authorities were outraged by the posts and took action.
Prosecutor Yves Delperie insists the Facebook posts violated Section R413-15 of the highway code which bans the possession of a "device or product" that detects or informs of the presence of speed cameras. Delperie argues this statute applies the use of the Facebook mobile phone app, according to the charges filed against group leader David Allegre on May 26 (view summons).
"Between May 15, 2013 and July 27, 2013... [Allegre] used a device or product to avoid the detection of a road traffic offense, in this case equipping his mobile phone with the Facebook application to access 'The group that tells you where the police in Aveyron are' allowing him to escape detection of road traffic offenses," Delperie wrote.
Allegre and the others face a three-year suspension of their driver's licenses, a fine and confiscation of their car and the smartphone used to warn of the speed trap.
The group refuses to back down, arguing the state's interpretation of the vaguely worded statute banning possession of a device that "may be used" to identify speed traps would apply to every user of the Facebook app. They are fighting back against the "repression" of their speech by resorting to code, telling users to be on the look out for "blueberries" or "photo souvenirs" on the side of the road, instead of speed traps.
"Motorist friends, if you go through the roundabout towards Montauban you can observe a splendid flight of periwinkles, pay attention to the road all the same, right?" one group member wrote.
Another group has sprung up, grown to 1000 members, that promises to mobilize protests at the September 9 trial.