France urges international rules of conduct for Internet

Francois Fillon, France's Minister for Post, Telecommunications and Space is urging his European Union partners to back the drafting of an international code of conduct to regulate the Internet, according to French government and EU officials.

During an informal meeting of EU culture and telecom ministers last week in Bologna, Italy, Fillon suggested member countries of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) should start drafting rules to ensure that services carried over the Internet respect existing national laws.

The rules specifically would target existing laws regarding, for example, the protection of minors, pornography and criminality, and would also establish a system for determining which country's rules apply to the services carried over the Internet, says Fillon in a memorandum to the ministers.

In the memo, Fillon warns that despite the benefits brought by the Internet, "its transnational character requires appropriate international cooperation to avoid a situation in which the decentralisation of the various service providers void the effectiveness of national regulations [covering the protection of minors, pornography and criminality."

In a statement issued following the meeting, Fillon says he will raise the issue when leaders of the so-called Group of Seven (G7) industrialised countries meet in Lyon, France, in June. The G7 countries are: the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan.

In response to Fillon's memo, the telecom ministers have instructed Industry Commissioner Martin Bangemann to contact the other members of the G7 countries "to sound out their feelings for such a convention," a source close to Commissioner Bangemann says.

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