Posted at 7am on Tuesday on the website Change.org by French daily L’Express, the petition had garnered over 33,000 signatures and counting by 5:30pm.
The petition, which comes one month before Snowden's visa expires in Russia, has the backing of 53 personalities including former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard, co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières Bernard Kouchner, co-founder of Yves Saint Laurent Couture House Pierre Bergé and philosopher Edgar Morin.
"Edward Snowden's revelations have shown that the massive collection of data by the NSA about citizens all over the world, went beyond the necessary fight against terrorism or against other geopolitical risks. As a whisteblower, Snowden managed to inform the general public of these aberrations, by placing the public interest and ethics above that of the reason of the state," read a letter published on the petition website.
The documents Snowden leaked to journalists have repeatedly exposed the vastness of America's information gathering via electronic means and have prompted awkward political confrontations and embarrassments. The files at one point revealed American intelligence services had tapped the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“By uncovering the abusive practices of the NSA, Edward Snowden protected the citizens of the European Union,” Christophe Barbier, editor of l’Express, was quoted as saying by the website. We should do the same for him.”
Though the petition has struck a chord with the public, it is unlikely to get far in France. The government has not officially reacted, but Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in an interview on BFM TV on Tuesday that he was "not favorable" toward harboring Snowden.
Doing so with put at risk France's deep ties with the United States. Though American and Russian relations had been rocky before Snowden was granted asylum there, they have only further degenerated since.
In an interview with L'Express, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who published a series of reports detailing United States and British global surveillance programmes based on classified documents released by Snowden, said: “It’s shameful that no European nation is reacting.”