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Content Matters

In 2022, the open and neutral Internet is under threat more than ever as policy-makers seek to rein in the bit tech global platforms, some of which did not exist when I set up this website in 2007.

We have seen several different groups of stakeholders lobbying for blocks to be placed on websites, user access to be suspended or content filtering. It all started with copyright, but now many other lobbying interests are leading the charge. Many are non-governmental organisations representing vulnerable people or children, others are big industrial corporations whose motives are less likely to represent a public interest. A worrying development is how law enforcement have themselves become a stakeholder in this debate, seeking to get the private corporations to carry out enforcement on their behalf.

The issues also have moved on. Over the time that I've been writing on this field, we've seen calls for Internet blocking arising in respect to libel and defamation, and now there is very long list. One of the more worrying developments, especially in the UK since Brexit, is the matter of abuse of individuals. Those who oppose government policy tend to experience high volumes of very unpleasant abuse, and in some cases violent threats. This is not acceptable. It does raise a very difficult question, from a policy and human rights perspective. How to balance the need to protect free speech against malicious or arbitrary restrictions against the need to tackle the those who engage in this unpleasant and anti-social activity.

This section address a range of threats to the Internet from 2008 to the present day.

If you like the articles in this section and you are interested in Internet policy-making in the EU, especially with regard to copyright policy, you may like my books A Copyright Masquerade: How Corporate Lobbying Threatens Online Freedoms and The Copyright Enforcement Enigma - Internet Politics and the 'Telecoms Package'

If you are following discussions around telecoms and technology policy and content blocking , you may like my book The Closing of the Net which covers the British copyright blocking orders, as well as the Megaupload case.


The eG8 was meant to be President Sarkozy's showpiece event, an opportunity to gather together the great and the good of Internet and content industries and have them all listen to him. It preceding the main economic talks of the G8. But today the French culture Minister, Frédéric Mitterrand,  had his nose  put well  out of joint. The rarified atmosphere of favoured copyright  industry was infiltrated by copyleft viewpoints. A prestige panel on Internet content appears to have turned into a farce worthy of Beaumarchais himself, as M. Mitterand was put well out of his comfort zone by John Perry Barlow, and  Jérémie Zimmermann (in this video) .

 

As outside the eG8, citizen activists attempted to alert the industry and government representatives to the problems of Sarkozy's plans to control the Internet, inside  Frédéric Mitterrand, chaired a panel comprising  four stalwarts of the copyright industries. They were  Antoine Gallimard  of Editions Gallimard, James Gianopulos of 20th Century Fox (Murdoch Corporation), Pascal Nègre, head  of Universal Music France, and Hartmut Ostrowski of  music publishers Bertelsmann.  A last-minute invitee was  John Perry Barlow, former musician with the Grateful Dead, founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and author of one of the seminal articles of the copyleft,  The Economy of Ideas.

 

John Perry Barlow stirred things up quite a bit, according to

Read more: eG8: copyright panel backfires on French Culture Minister

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 

Read more: eG8: Sarkozy's Social Contract for control of the Internet

In light of the eG8 in Paris this week, in which a number of these industry chiefs, including Vivendi, will be present, the discussions held by a small group of European industry chiefs shed light on their plans for the future of the Internet.

A group of industry chief executives, which includes Apple's Steve Jobs, Alcatel-Lucent's Ben Verwaayen (formerly of BT), Vodafone's Vittorio Colao, and Vivendi's Jean-Bernard Levy is in talks to put together proposals for the future development of the Internet. The group is known as the CEO Round Table, and it operates under the auspices of European Commission and, in this case, at the specific request of Commissioner for Information Society Neelie Kroes.

There are hints that the group could come out with proposals which will not sit comfortably with Mrs Kroes' stated public objective of maintaining an open Internet. A Working Group headed by Vivendi's

Read more: Will Vivendi broker a prioritised Internet?

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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor: online safety, technology and human rights. In April 2024, I was appointed as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on online safety and empowerment of content creators and users. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

Iptegrity.com is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.