President Sarkozy of France gathered together the great and the good of the Internet world for a summit on the future of the ‘Net. But were Eric Schmidt and Mark Zuckerberg, et al prepared for his lecture on responsibility, just a like a schoolmaster with a flock of misbehaving children?

Today's eG8 conference  was a side-show to the main meeting of the G8 group economic forum being hosted in Paris by the French government. Industry leaders from Europe and the US, including the heads of the  powerful Internet companies, like Google, eBay and Facebook, were invited.  It was driven by President Sarkozy's and his objective to impose controls on the Internet. So even though the preliminaries suggested that it was about economic growth and innovation, Sarkozy's agenda set the tone for the meeting from the beginning. He arrived at 10 am this morning to open the conference.

After some preliminaries praising their inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit, he plunged straight in to his agenda. The Internet is ‘not a parallel universe stripped of morals and all of 

the fundamental  principles which govern society in democratic countries', he said.


He explained that there is a form of social contract which applies to the Internet as well as to the offline world: ‘Governments are the representatives of the general will of the population and if we forget that we run the risk of chaos, and therefore anarchy'.  


As predicted by La Quadrature du Net ,  this was not a conference about the development of the Internet and growth of the digital economy. PC Inpact shows part of the agenda led by the copyright companies.  Sarkozy called for tighter security and protection of culture  - French code for 3-strikes and Hadopi.

 The Intenet entrepreneurs corralled in the packed room were told be behave responsibly.:


Don't let the technology that you have forged...the revolution that have started ... carry along the bad things without any brakes, don't let it become an instrument in the hands of thow who would attack our security and therefore our liberty and our integrity.'


" You have developed a machine which allows people to acess all of the cultural wealth of the world at a simple click. It would be truly paradoxical if the web contributed to creating a culturla desert. This immense cultural richness which has lit up our civilisations, we owe it to the creative power of artists, authors, thinkers.... However, that power of creation is fragile...'


Messrs Schmidt and Zuckerberg also got a mini-lecture on Beaumarchais. He was the French dramatist whose protests created the law of droit'd'auteur at the time of the French Revolution. What Sarkozy omitted was that Beaumarchais was protesting against the  monopoly of the Comedie Francaise  which prevented him and other playwrights from making money out of their work.  Oops!


The question and answer session was more like a second lecture. There was just one question which disturbed the controlled air in the room. That was Jeff Jarvis, American academic and blogger, who sent a plea back to Sarkozy to take the Hippocratic oath: ‘do no harm'.


Unsurprisingly, there was no positive response.  The conference was not about debate, it was about Sarkozy telling this powerful group of American entrepreneurs they had better start playing his game. But will they listen? We watch with interest.

The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2011) eG8 Sarkozy's Social Contract for control of  the Internet 24 May 2011 .  

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