PHAROS: how to report illegal, unwanted and harmful content

Internet users in France are able to report illicit online content and behaviour via a dedicated portal developed by Thales for the Ministry of the Interior. In 2015, no fewer than 188,000 reports were received by the PHAROS team of investigators, who analyse the content in question and coordinate further enquiries with the relevant authorities. The PHAROS portal went live in 2009 and can be found at internet-signalement.gouv.fr.

The PHAROS* system was created by government order on 16 June 2009 at the request of the Ministry of the Interior and is overseen by the OCLCTIC, France’s national cybercrime investigation unit. It allows members of the public, ISPs, government watchdogs and other stakeholders to quickly and anonymously report websites or written, photographic or video content that breaks the law. In March 2015, the OCLCTIC was authorised by decree to demand illicit websites identified via the PHAROS platform, specifically those containing content related to terrorism or child sexual abuse, to be blocked or removed from search engine indexes and search results.

Of  the total alerts received, 44% relate to fraud, 16% to terrorism or support for terrorist activities, 14% to racist actions, racist statements or incitement to violence and 9% to child sexual abuse content. Where content is deemed to be legally unacceptable, it is forwarded to the relevant police or law enforcement authorities for further action.

Since 2009, Thales has been working on PHAROS with the Ministry of the Interior with a close involvement in platform architecture design, system developments, operational assistance, corrective maintenance, upgrades and support. The contract has recently been extended for a further renewable two-year period.

The PHAROS system is designed to evolve constantly in line with changes in applicable legislation. It receives, processes and stores reports of illicit content and related material (emails, pictures, videos and other files), then provides the highest levels of security and confidentiality to support the investigation process (secure procedures, network and data security, evidence archiving, chain of custody management, and a digital safe function). PHAROS is currently staffed by 16 police officers from 8 am to 7 pm on weekdays, with personnel also available at weekends.
 
Further information and video (in French):
Grand Angle : la plateforme Pharos on the official French Government website
 
*Plateforme d’Harmonisation, d’Analyse, de Recoupement et d’Orientation des Signalements