EC says Internet regulation doesn't demand new laws

The European Commission favours co-operation rather than regulation to keep illegal material off the Net.

The way to keep illegal material off the Internet is to develop better ties between Internet service providers (ISPs), telecom operators and police authorities -- not by passing new regulation -- according to a European Commission communication that will be approved today.

During a meeting today the commission will approve a Communication called "Harmful and Illegal Content on the Internet" drafted under Industry Commissioner Martin Bangemann, according to a source here who asked not to be identified.

Pedophilic or mafia-related texts are already banned by national laws in the European Union, but purely national authorities are unable to make sure the rules are respected on the Internet. Therefore the commission will call for closer co-operation among national, judicial and policy authorities both across international and European Union borders, the source says.

The document also underlines the need for member states to develop a common European framework to define the extent to which access providers and host-service providers are liable for uploading illegal content.

The 26-page document will call on the Internet industry to develop filtering software and a rating system for content carried on the Internet to give consumers the choice of controlling which services they or their children download, according to an early draft of the document obtained by @IDG.

Without co-ordinated action at European level, the commission fears that individual member states will introduce national mechanisms that interfere with the transmission of pan-European services and their development.

During the same meeting, the commission is also expected to approve a Green Paper on the protection of minors. The Green Paper sets out issues to be dealt with over the next couple years including the development of electronic tagging systems, a commission source says. Although this document covers the Internet, its scope also extends to video-on-demand and interactive television.

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