France seeks to bar hosting WikiLeaks website

The home page of the website is pictured on a computer in Hoboken, New Jersey, November 28, 2010. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government is examining how it could ban website WikiLeaks from being hosted on servers in France, according to a letter written by Industry Minister Eric Besson and seen by Reuters on Friday.

The letter addressed to ministry officials said WikiLeaks, which has infuriated Washington by releasing some 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, had been partly hosted by French company OVH since U.S. host Amazon stopped supporting it on Thursday.

“I ask you to indicate to me as soon as possible what action can be taken to ensure that this Internet site is no longer hosted in France,” Besson wrote.

“This situation is not acceptable. France cannot host an Internet site that violates the secrecy of diplomatic relations and endangers people.”

OVH said in a statement that it was seeking an urgent court ruling to address the issue, arguing that it was in legal terms a provider of technical services and not a host.

Wikileaks had been using its services since early on Thursday, paying less than 150 euros to do so via an automated system, the statement said, adding that OVH had not even been aware of the fact until it was reported in the media.

“It is not up to politicians or OVH to demand or decide the closure of a site, but to the justice system,” said the statement.

Reporting by Nick Vinocur and Brian Love; editing by Andrew Roche