Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

FC: UN summit in Paris next week on Internet taxing & re

------- Forwarded message follows ------- Date sent: Wed, 24 Nov 1999 13:06:36 -0500 To: From: Declan McCullagh <> Subject: FC: UN summit in Paris next week on Internet taxing & regulation Send reply to:

[This UNESCO confab would be hysterical if the folks weren't actually serious. Read on for excerpts.],1283,32711,00.html

World Tackles Web Regulation by Declan McCullagh

9:45 a.m. 24.Nov.1999 PST Every government official worth his pension plan seems to have his own plans for Internet regulation these days.

Nigeria wants a "Marshall Plan" where tax money from wealthy countries would wire Africa. The Netherlands wants to limit "commercial influences" on the Net, and Singapore hopes to convince everyone to follow its lead in restricting erotica online.

To try to find a common ground, governments from around the world will debate the best way to approach Internet regulations at a United Nations summit next week in Paris.

A major theme of the "Internet and New Services" two-day summit of regulators, hosted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, is whether government pressure on the computer industry is sufficient -- or whether more formal regulations are necessary.


World Summit of Regulators "Internet and the New Services" (Paris, UNESCO, 30 Nov.- 1 Dec. 1999)


The CSA forwarded to all the independent communication regulation authorities which they knew existed in the world a first preparatory note at the beginning of 1999, outlining the reflection themes envisaged and the main sets of problems identified, in order to collect as many contributions as possible from the regulators in charge of the audio-visual or both the audio-visual and telecommunications on the five continents. [...]

According to the OFCOM again, as far as the Web sites are open to the public, which is potentially large, or even very large, and as far as this sites actually offer limites possibilities of interactivity, ' the setting up of licences, concessions, and the registrating of the services concerned have to be entrusted to a public authority, which doesn't exclude that private bodies can play an important role for the autoregulation. [...]

3- The reflection on internet regulation must be carried out at international level but also at the same time at national level

Another result of the consultation by the CSA is that of the extreme variety of the tolerance thresholds from one country to another as to the application of freedom of expression, whether regarding, among other examples available, the refusal to display nudity or that of racist remarks. Unsurprisingly, it is therefore not very reasonable, in fact not very desirable for some, to expect the advent of a world conception of freedom of expression to regulate content. [...]

'The Internet is international, and even if there is regulation, it will be easy to avoid it by setting up in the States which do not take part in such regulation or by transmitting from such states'. (Norway).

Several contributions however mention the need to find an international framework suited to an awareness of the challenges of the internet, going beyond the commercial or economic challenges only, and taking into account the social, cultural and political dimension of the changes caused by the existence and the use of the internet (points mentioned a regular conference of the regulators on the internet, to compare points of view, or a world conference on the information society, organised by UNESCO…).

' Given the borderless nature of the Internet', the SBA (Singapore) is of the view that ' there is a need for more international dialog and cooperation in tackling the problems mentioned in the CSA report while we can each attempt to regulate the content providers within our national boundaries, ther is a need to get together and develop a common global framework which can help make the Internet a safer place for our citizens. The World Summit provides an excellent platform for global dialog and sharing of ideas to take place.'

§-2 Ways are thus open at a European level, and in all the international negotiation bodies G8, IUT, OMPI, OMC, UN, UNESCO, etc. Police and legal co-operations and specialisations at an international level are also obviously essential. But 'new forms of regulation' must be invented say the Norwegians [...]

At a third level, the labelling of the sites is envisaged. For the moment, only the more advanced countries seem to set up reflection groups for labelling sites (Australia, Canada, Recommendation by the European Commission). [...]

At a fifth level, there are plans to design, country by country, or on a multi-national scale, filtering software packages intended for the end user or for the technical suppliers. [...]

Beyond the adaptation of the penal code for what concerns the illegal content on Internet (including the possibility of punishing the expression of revisionism on the net) the german laws about the information and communication services foresee, in teir second part, the realization, entrusted to the Federal Office for Verification of writings threatening the minors, of an Index which would register the injurious contents that are not forbidden. Once they are indexed, these contents can only be broadcasted if technical devices are settled in order to prevent minors to read them. The third part of the law concerns the prejudicial contents the services suppliers whose offers contain contents which threaten the minors are compelled to chose representatives who must protect the minors. [...]

The way Singapore has chosen is quite original "Internet service providers (ISPs) ans Internet Content providers (ICPs) are automatically licensed and they are given a set of broad guidelines that provides a clear idea of what their responsibilities are. This approach creates greater transparency and makes it easier for the industry to operate and grow. ISPs are not required to monitor the Internet or its users and they only need to limit public access to hundred mass impact pornographic sites identified by SBA. Primary responsability for contents lies with the Internet content providers who are required to comply with the Internet code of practice which outlines some broad markers of what the community regards as offensive and harmful to Singapore' s racial and religious harmony and public morals.' In order to complete this regulation framework, the SBA encourages and promotes actively the auto-regulation of industry and public education.

But rather than accepting the American software packages available on the market, several countries hope to produce national filtering software, or software specific to a particular type of public, more suitable to the national contexts, cultures and morals (Australia, Singapore) or regional contexts, cultures and morals (European INCORE project). In September 1996, seven member countries of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Singapore, Viet-Nam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand) decided to collectively regulate communications on the internet in order in particular to prevent pornography.

At a sixth level, the responsibility of the technical suppliers is envisaged in various ways. The trend seems to be removal of the responsibility of technical suppliers but with exceptions. It is true that the risks of de-locating accommodating services are quite actual. In most countries, neither the legislators nor the judges have either drawn up or clarified a position on this complex legal problem. Still, the Gabonese CNC, like many others, 'shares the CSA's reflexions about the necessity to name a responsible person for edition in the audiovisual services on Internet. [...]

6- The radio-TV Right must be adapted every where in the world to the technological new deal

In addition to the indispensable respect for the 'major principles' already quoted (defence and promotion of the cultural values and contents, pluralism…) the answers the CSA has received justify in a recurrent way the presence of the Right and of the audiovisual regulatory authorities in the debate about the Internet Regulation, at least at three levels first, because Internet certainly concerns the future of Radio and TV, even if, as it has been seen, there is no matter of urgency and even if the concrete mode of this coming hybridization his still hardly known ; second, because some services conveyed by the Internet Protocol also may be soon assimilated to the Mass Media ; lastly, because the right of audiovisual or broadcasting (which depends on the country) seems to be the best ground for any attempt to adapt a legal frame for the communication towards the public through Internet.

§-1. The relevance of the right of audiovisual or broadcasting in the development of Internet is obvious fot what concerns the publications on the Web (ie the communication towards the public through the Internet Protocol).

First, many contributions approve the idea of not defining the audiovisual or broadcasting communication services through their infrastructure or their technical support. In most of the countries, the criterion which determines the audiovisual communication is because of its social dimension, the public, or the differentiated addressee. [...]

For the Netherlands Regulation Authority again, ' it is also of importance that the information is not subject to commercial influences. The freedom an individual is supposed to have when using a databank on the Internet is actually rather relative. The provider of the data service may quite easily guide the user of that service in a certain (commercial) direction. In that case, the viewers have to be able to rely on the fact that the information offered by the broadcasters on the Internet, is objective. In the same way than the Internet editors ans others professionally involved with the broadcasters' sites have to be sure that they can gather, compose, and present information in all editorial independance. Therefore, we feel that it would make sense to impose the strict division between editorial and commercial on all services of the broadcasters on the Internet that are aimed at the general public.'

As a matter of fact, the debate concerns everywhere the range of the restrictions that could be envisaged for instance, is it necessary to impose the respect for the forbidden fields of advertising (alcohol, tobacco…) in the audiovisual programmes broadcasted on Internet ? Netherlands explains that ' Certain basic principles of the broadcasters have to be transferred on the Internet, as for instance the distinctive character of the public broadcasting organisations, the distinction between editorial and commercial and the protection of minors. On the Internet to, the public broadcasters should distinguish themselves from commercial providers by the non commercial character of the information offered. It should be perfectly clear, on the Web, wether services are being sponsored. Illicit advertising and advertising for tobacco and cigarets should also be prohibited on the Internet. [...]

§5. For these new intermediary media services, there are nevertheless some demands identification of a responsible person for the edition, right to reply, minor welfare, elementary restrictions about advertising and honesty of information… [...]

Without sacrificing to the traditional prophecies surrounding the internet 'miracle', sometimes alarmist, at other times idealist, the duty of the leaders of all countries consists in serenely setting out the realistic prospects of this new tool. From then onwards, it is particularly necessary not to deny, without however exaggerating them, the threats of increasing inequalities that the internet supports. [...]

3- The solutions envisaged by the various contributions economic and technological aid and the promotion of the public domain on the internet

§-1. Economic North-South aid. It is most often the case for the developing country bodies to apply to the developed countries for an economic aid enabling the Southern countries, today mostly excluded, to contribute too to the world wide web and to benefit from it. According to the terms of a Nigerian delegate to the RIARC, what is needed is a 'Marshall plan' for the internet in Africa. [...]

It is therefore important that the regulators weigh up their responsibilities in this field and take a stand on the questions of access (public domain, free access to the services of general interest, taxation of the local communications devoted to internet… ). [...]

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