Governments unlikely to leave 'Net alone: Thurow

Recent moves by industry leaders aimed at promoting the idea of self-regulation of the Internet are not likely to succeed in keeping governments from wanting to regulate 'Net activities, according to an MIT professor.

Easier said than done. Recent moves by industry leaders aimed at promoting the idea of self-regulation of the Internet are not very likely to succeed in keeping governments from wanting to regulate 'Net activities, according to a professor of management and economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"I don't know of any case where there is successful self-regulation -- unless the government stands behind the self-regulators with a club," Lester Thurow said to reporters after his presentation today at International Data.'s European IT Forum here.

But when it comes to even thornier issues such as eventual taxation of cross-border electronic commerce transactions, governments may well find it hard to create revenue streams, noted Thurow. "If you can't monitor the transaction, how can you tax it?" he asked.

Thurow's comments came as world business leaders at the inaugural Global Business Dialogue on Electronic Commerce (GBDe) conference held here this week presented their recommendations for the creation of a global policy framework for e-commerce, including protection of consumers' privacy, to representatives of governments and international organisations.

GBDe leaders, however, stressed that they -- wherever possible -- would prefer to see self-regulation and technological solutions, rather than rigid or conflicting over-regulation by governments.

Other business leaders expressed similar views on the issue of regulating 'Net content at the Internet Content Summit, held last week in Munich, Germany. At that summit, politicians and industry representatives discussed -- and often disagreed upon -- proposals put forward in a report titled "Self-regulation of Internet Content" by the meeting's host, the Bertelsmann Foundation.

More information about the GBDe and its recommendations can be found on the Web at http://www.gbde.org/. The proposals put forward by the Bertelsmann Foundation are at http://www.stiftung.bertelsmann.de/internetcontent/.

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