French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s clever plan to look both innovative and responsible at his unilateral ‘eG8’ summit in Deauville has flopped as his hand-picked collection of internet whizz guests (hand-picked by Maurice Levy of Publicis Groupe) roundly rejected his plans for more internet regulation.
Leading the charge was 27-year old Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
“On the one hand you have the internet which is this really powerful force for giving people a voice,” he said. “Now it’s tempting to say that on security or privacy you can go towards the most extreme option and maintain all the value that we currently recognise. I’m worried personally that’s not true.”
He was supported by Google chairman Eric Schmidt (for the first time in living memory possibly).
“The industry as a whole is concerned that premature regulation can shut off whole new industries, whole new opportunities, whole new innovations,” Schmidt said.
The hapless French president was left to mutter that there must be a way to regulate the internet (to prevent copyright piracy for example) in which innovation would not be harmed.
But this was a far cry from the denunciations of internet “anarchy” with which he started the conference.
Of course businesses always reject regulation (it’s their default position) but the internet (as far as its users are concerned anyway) is not just a business matter. So Zuckerberg and Schmidt will find plenty of support.
Sarkozy has a forthcoming election to try to win of course so it’s at least arguable that the point (for him) of the eG8 was positive publicity, not a newly-discovered concern about an anarchic internet.
But if that was his strategy it didn’t work either.