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Leaders of State and Internet Gather to Discuss the Digital World.

The author

Abi Liddle

Client Services Director

In the run up to the G8 summit, Nicolas Sarkozy hosted the eG8 Forum. The gathering, with more than 1,000 delegates, included Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google and John Donahoe, President of eBay. The intention was to gather the great and good of the internet and digital world under the theme ‘The Internet: Accelerating Growth.’ The conclusions they reached will then be communicated to the heads of state attending the G8 yesterday and today. Sarkozy acknowledged the great power that the internet has, how it touches so many elements of life and is determined that governments, as representatives of the people and ‘legitimate guardians of our societies’ need to have a role and be able to participate in forming regulations online. He advised the forum that ‘the universe that you are responsible for is not a parallel universe outside laws and morals,’ stating that the exclusion of governments would be to risk ‘democratic chaos and hence anarchy.’

So how does the French president believe the state should be involved in governing online? This is the big question and one he will be canvassing his fellow heads of state to engage and support him on. The concern is how much regulation Sarkozy will call for – and who will back him up on this call? This week has proved how difficult it is to regulate privacy laws online in the UK alone – even in print, the difference in English and Scottish law was seized upon, and whilst that might have been a neat solution around an injunction in an age before the internet, it was so unworkable in this day and age. And whilst no one would argue against the protection of children from the ‘turpitude of certain adults,’ it’s hard to see how enforceable worldwide regulation would be. It’s a great idea to get all those people in one place and start to have the conversation, but finding the middle ground will be the challenge. Where all countries differ in their own laws, finding the common ground on which they go on to govern the digital world, let alone reaching a single view on how to tackle subjects such as piracy, intellectual property and privacy will be interesting. I agree with Mark Schmidt’s note of caution, who advised governments to ‘tread lightly,’ admitting that ‘clearly you need some level of regulation for the evil stuff. But I would be careful about over-regulating.’ (Photo: BBC)