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French youths turn to Web, cellphones to plan riots

By Paul Carrel
Reuters
Wednesday, November 9, 2005; 9:44 AM

PARIS (Reuters) - France's government is policing cyberspace as well as rundown suburbs in the battle to end two weeks of rioting.

Young rioters are using blog messages to incite violence and cellphones to organize attacks in guerrilla-like tactics they have copied from anti-globalisation protesters, security experts say.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has diverted resources to monitoring blogs -- short for Web logs -- in an effort to anticipate the movements of the protesters, who have set fire to thousands of cars since the unrest began on October 27.

Two youths were placed under official investigation, one step short of pressing charges under French law, early on Wednesday on suspicion of inciting violence over the Internet after urging people to riot in blogs, a judicial source said.

But tracking rioters' blogs is a big task for the security services, already stretched by the violence on the ground.

"This is a new dimension to take into consideration," said Internet security expert Solange Ghernaouti-Helie.

"To do the tracking on the Internet to identify the people involved is without doubt possible. But it requires considerable surveillance and analysis resources," she said.

Blogs are easy-to-publish Web sites where millions of people post commentary. Those allegedly posted by the two youths under investigation were made in online diaries hosted by Skyblog, a Web site belonging to popular youth radio station Skyrock.

Skyblog's site says it hosts over three million blogs, with thousands added each day. One of those urging people to riot -- since deactivated by Skyrock -- read: "Unite, burn the cops."

Some bloggers have urged people not to incite violence.

The host of bouna93.skyblog.com, a memorial blog for the two youths whose deaths sparked the riots, urged contributors to respect the dead boys, adding: "It would be preferable not to make racist, fascist comments or to give rendez-vous spots."

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