Tech elite gathers in Paris for Internet forum

CIOL Bureau
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PARIS, FRANCE: Movers and shakers of the Internet world are gathering in Paris for a two-day forum hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, where both ends of a spectrum of views on the digital world are already on display.


Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Google's Eric Schmidt and News Corp's Rupert Murdoch are among luminaries enlisted by Sarkozy for a pre-G8 forum designed to help him make his mark on Internet regulation, as he has on banking reform.

Discussion promises to be lively

Discussion promises to be lively, with the likes of Google and Twitter advocating a hands-off approach to the Internet pitted against those like News Corp and Sarkozy himself, who favour more regulatory control.


The debate has been thrown into the spotlight in Britain this week as Twitter users in their thousands made a mockery of injunctions obtained by the rich and famous to hush up scandals, by publishing names and details.

The affair has highlighted the near impossibility of imposing national law on the Internet as well as cultural differences between Europe and the United States.

The flourishing U.S. Internet hub of Silicon Valley is the envy of many entrepreneurs in Europe as well as a concern for politicians and businesses with entrenched interests that are threatened by the Web's disruptive power.


Schmidt, in his new role as executive chairman with responsibility for government outreach since handing over to Google co-founder Larry Page as chief executive last month, sought to soothe such concerns in a French newspaper column.

"Some people seem to think that a magic potion presided over the creation of Silicon Valley and companies that thrive there," he wrote in Le Monde in a column published on Monday. "But with the Internet, everyone can be a catalyst for change."

Not all those on Sarkozy's guest list accepted the invitation, however, with many wary of the intentions of a president best known in the online world for passing a law that calls for copyright pirates to be cut off from the Internet.


Cory Doctorow, a Canadian blogger, author and advocate of copyright liberalisation, said he had declined Sarkozy's invitation to attend the so-called e-G8.

He wrote on the Boing Boing blog he co-edits: "I believe it is a whitewash, an attempt to get people who care about the Internet to lend credibility to regimes that are in all-out war with the free, open Net."

Some of the tech heavyweights will present the conclusions of the forum to the world leaders attending the G8 meeting on May 27-28 in the French seaside resort of Deauville.