The G-8 (Group of Eight) Summit officially opens on Thursday in Deauville, France under very heavy security. This international forum represents eight of the world’s major economies, which are France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Russia, the United States, Japan and the UK. This year, the holder of the rotating presidency is Nicolas Sarkozy, whose responsibility is to host and set the agenda of the forum and determine which ministerial meetings will take place.
In a separate, two-day pre e-G-8 session in Paris today, the French President addressed 1500 ‘movers and shakers’ of the Internet, including Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Niklas Zennstrom of Skype, Eric Schmidt of Google, executives from Microsoft, Amazon, Ebay and the billionaire head of the News Corp empire and arguably the world’s most powerful media mogul, Rupert Murdoch.
Sarkozy is in favor of tougher regulations for the Internet, and knows that he would encounter resistance from the major players. While he lauded the role social websites have played in helping organize revolutions in the Arab World, he also insisted that ground rules were necessary to curb terrorism and child abuse. He balanced his desire for regulation with some strokes:
‘You have changed the world . . . it has been a total global revolution. What has been unique in this revolution is that it belongs to nobody; it has no flag, no slogan, it is a common good. What is also unique about this revolution is that it was done without violence. It was not fought on battlefields but on university campuses.‘
Murdoch, like Sarkozy, is in favor of more regulations that would address issues of piracy, intellectual property, and the ever growing threat of the Internet’s power to disrupt businessmen and politicians. France was one of the first countries to crack down on the servers on its territory that enabled WikiLeaks to publish
They are pitted against the likes of ‘hands-off’ advocates like Zuckerberg and Schmidt. Mr. Sarkozy is best known for having passed a law that makes web users liable to prosecution if they illegally download films and music; he also strongly opposes Google’s book digitization project.
France’s cultural minister, Frederic Mitterrand, does not share Sarkozy’s dire view of an unregulated Internet. He stated that free speech could not be owned by anyone, and that the forum was designed to attempt to apply old school rules and regulations to modern innovation. Sarkozy talks about collective responsibility ensuring ‘good governance’.
The forum’s conclusions will be presented at the G-8 meeting later on this week.