The French president, an opponent of an unregulated Internet, wants to make censorship a global initiative
French president Nicolas Sarkozy is facing criticism from net neutrality advocates, for introducing Internet regulation as an issue at the G8 Summit due to be held in Deauville, France, in May.
A spokesperson for Sarkozy is reported widely in French newspapers as saying, “The idea is that [Internet] representatives from each G8 nation should meet in Deauville before the G8 and produce a report on these questions: What regulation is necessary for the Internet? How to respond to problems of terrorism, paedophilia, and the right to anonymity?”
Sarkozy Seeks Obama’s Backing
According to the spokesperson, Sarkozy’s controversial move was outlined to US president Barack Obama in a meeting on Monday. The two heads of state discussed the French agenda under Sarkozy’s presidency of the G8.
Sarkozy and his secretary of state for trade Frédéric Lefebvre are vociferous opponents of an unfettered Internet. The strident Lefebvre has been quoted in the past as saying that the Internet was a nest of “psychopaths, rapists, racists and thieves… The lack of regulation on the Net creates victims every day… How long will they tolerate young girls being raped before the authorities react?”
Sarkozy, reportedly, was more measured in his comments to Obama but last October at the Vatican in Rome he said that the regulation of the Internet was a “moral imperative” in order to “correct the excesses and abuses that arise from the total absence of rules”.
In June 2009, France’s highest court inflicted an embarrassing blow to President Sarkozy by defeating his plan to create an intellectual property police force for France’s Internet.the proposed “Hadopi” regulations would have meant that illegal downloaders of illicitly obtained media, such as music and films, would receive two warnings before being disconnected from the Internet.
This was criticised by the inventor of the Web, Sir Tim Berners Lee who said in November that Hadopi and the UK’s Digital Economy Act, “no due process of law protects people before they are disconnected or their sites are blocked.”
Apart from the difficulty of implementing such a law in the age of mobile Web access, the regulations had to be forced through parliament after an initial rejection, only to be overturned by the Constitutional Council. The judges declared Internet access to be a basic human right.
The French Internet advocacy group, La Quadrature du Net, which opposed Hadopi and other online regulatory measures in France, was quoted by Le Monde newspaper as saying that Sarkozy’s desire for increased Internet regulation was “not a surprise”.
“All of this is extremely worrisome,” said Jeremie Zimmermann, spokesperson for La Quadrature. “The Internet is a communications tool and by regulating it we attack its very nature, as well as individual freedoms. This is a bad solution.”