Facebook revolution comes to French presidency
Wednesday 25 May 2011
The Internet revolution reached the top level of world leadership Wednesday when Facebook pioneer Mark Zuckerberg met with President Nicolas Sarkozy on the closing day of the first "e-G8" summit.
The 27-year-old American founder of the social networking site - on which Sarkozy himself has a page - visited the Elysee palace between the president's meetings with the cabinet and the Japanese prime minister.
The encounter came on the sidelines of the "e-G8", which on its second day was fast becoming a face-off between the powers that be, big business and web rebels.
Sarkozy kicked off the summit of top online and media barons on Tuesday, hailing their "Internet revolution" but warning them that some degree of government regulation was inevitable to avoid "democratic chaos."
Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt hit back by warning governments to "be careful about regulating the Internet" for fear of choking its potential, while web freedom group Access Now petitioned against Sarkozy's stance.
"After the first day of discussions at the so-called 'e-G8 forum', President Sarkozy's disastrous design for the Internet has become glaringly apparent," said a statement Wednesday from campaign group Access Now.
"The world's most developed economies (the G8) are poised to impose strict copyright enforcement and heavy-handed government regulation of the Internet," it added, citing leaks of drafts of the e-G8 final declaration due Wednesday.
Zuckerberg left the Elysee without commenting to the media but was due to address the forum later Wednesday.
The e-G8 aims to draw up a declaration for the Group of Eight Leaders who meet in Deauville, northwestern France, on Thursday and Friday, with discussions covering sensitive issues such as online copyright and censorship.
Major players on the industry and political side approved Sarkozy's stance on regulation, particularly on protecting intellectual property from online privacy.
Sarkozy "did well in putting these questions in the agenda," the European Union's Digital Agenda Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, told the forum on Wednesday.
"Sometimes you need rules in the game, in particular when it's about global issues."
Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire head of the News Corporation empire and arguably the world's most powerful media mogul, also weighed in, calling for the G8 to protect intellectual property.
"We hope that the G8 will strongly affirm that the property rights of artists and creators are more than just a matter of protecting cultures," he told the gathering Tuesday.
"In this new century, they are essential requirements for a dynamic economy and the digital future."
Several media rights and civil society groups including Reporters Without Borders meanwhile held a news conference complaining that the forum was giving a voice mainly to big businesses.
With blogs and Tweets oiling the wheels of revolution in some countries and scans and downloads sparking trade disputes in others, the stakes are high for leaders seeking to profit from the web but also to rein in online crime.
Top executives from online giants including Microsoft, Facebook, eBay and Amazon attended the gathering to tout the economic potential of the Internet, which Sarkozy has put on the agenda of the G8 summit he will host.
Zuckerberg and other big hitters are due to personally deliver the e-G8's declaration to G8 leaders in Deauville.
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