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Hague: Web risks turning into city of ghettos

UK seeks net protection pact from biz and govts

By Brid-Aine Parnell, 1 Nov 2011

LCC The UK seems to be hoping for some sort of lasting agreement from its gathering of governments and businesses at the London Conference on Cyberspace (LCC).

Speaking at the conference, Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was time to “build on our common interests, developing firm ideas and proposals with real political and diplomatic weight”, which would seem to indicate that the UK is hoping for some lasting agreements from the conference.

The LCC has been billed by the Foreign Office as the first step in a long process of getting governments and businesses to agree on how to promote and protect the internet, although whether any of accord the conference will be binding remains to be seen.

Hague also said that despite concerns about cybercrime, the internet shouldn’t be under government control.

“Nothing would be more fatal or self-defeating than the heavy hand of state control on the internet, which only thrives because of the talent of individuals and of industry within an open market for ideas and innovation,” he said.

“The internet must remain open and not become fragmented and ghettoised, subject to separate rules and processes in different regions set by isolated national services, with state-imposed barriers to trade, commerce and the free flow of information and ideas.”

However, cybercrime and the digital divide are both hampering this goal and action needs to be taken to help those countries that aren’t as well defended or internet-capable, Hague said.

He also echoed his statements from earlier in the conference that social media should remain free and open as well, despite their role in global unrest.

“We reject the view that government suppression of the internet, phone networks and social media at times of unrest is acceptable,” he said.

“Cultural differences are not an excuse to water down human rights, nor can the exploitation of digital networks by a minority of criminals or terrorists be a justification for states to censor their citizens.”

The LCC is taking place over today and tomorrow. A follow-up conference on cyberspace is going to be held in Hungary next year and in the Republic of Korea in 2013, according to the Foreign Secretary. ®