The Yahoo Case and the International Democratization of the Internet

20 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2001

Date Written: April 2001


This essay examines the French court order requiring Yahoo to prevent French Internet users from accessing images of Nazi memorabilia available on its American web site. The essay uses the French case to challenge the popular belief that an entirely borderless Internet favors democratic values. Professor Reidenberg starts from the premise that while the Internet enables actors to reach a geographically dispersed audience, the Internet should not change the accountability of those actors for their conduct within national borders. Professor Reidenberg shows that Yahoo's extensive business in France justifies the application of France's democratically chosen law and argues that the decision has important normative implications for pluralistic democracy on the global network. Namely, the decision promotes technical changes in the Internet architecture that empower democratic states to be able to enforce their freely chosen public policies within their territories. At the same time, the infrastructure changes will not enhance the ability of non-democratic states to pursue repressive policies within their territories in violation of international law. The essay shows the French decision as a maturing of the Internet regulatory framework and argues that the policy rules embedded in the technical infrastructure must recognize values adopted by different states and must not be dictated by technical elites.

JEL Classification: K00, K19, K40, K42, K20, K33, K30, O30, O38

Suggested Citation

Reidenberg, Joel R., The Yahoo Case and the International Democratization of the Internet (April 2001). Available at SSRN: or

Joel R. Reidenberg (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States
212-636-6843 (Phone)
212-930-8833 (Fax)


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