French President Nicolas Sarkozy has opened the first e-G8 forum in Paris, with leaders in technology such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales, News Corp chief executive Rupert Murdoch, BBC director general Mark Thompson, and Google’s Eric Schmidt set to give talks about Internet technology.
But even as the French president is excited to be thoe host of the technology gathering, many critics have said that the gathering is more about control than internet innovation. Attempting to address some of those concerns, Sarkozy said that the Internet enables and fosters the ability to engage in revolution without all the blood and death:
"The global revolution that you incarnate is a peaceful one. It did not emerge on battlefields but on university campuses," he said.
In the very same breath Sarkozy said that countries around the wolrd could not be neutral and allow "unchecked internet use."
"The world you represent is not a parallel universe where legal and moral rules and more generally all the basic rules that govern society in democratic countries do not apply."
The French president is viewed by many Internet rights advocates as being more supportive of content creators and rights holders than Internet users. The country has one of the toughest file-sharing laws in the world – a three-strikes rule that gives stiff penalties including fines and "internet disconnection."
"I know and I understand that our French idea of copyright laws is not the same as in the United States and other countries," he said. "Nobody can have his ideas, work, imagination and intellectual property expropriated without punishment," he said.
During a Q&A with the president of France, Jeff Jarvis (associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism challenged) asked the president if he would be willing to sign a "do no harm" oath related to the internet. The request was met with icy stares and mild indignation. Sarkozy said that taking control of illegal activity on the Internet could never be considered harmful.
Speaking to the BBC after the event, Jarvis said that the president’s comments showed the true intentions of world leaders:
"At least Sarkozy acknowledged that he doesn’t own the internet and his government doesn’t own the internet. Nonetheless, he is claiming sovereignty here and so will the G8 and I have fear in that.
Perhaps out of best intentions they will try to change the architecture of the internet and how it operates, but we don’t even know what it is yet. It is too soon to regulate the beast," he said.