Zuckerberg and Schmidt warn on over-regulation of web

Mark Zuckerberg
Image caption Mark Zuckerberg stressed the internet couldn't be split into parts

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google boss Eric Schmidt have warned governments worldwide not to over-regulate the internet.

Mr Zuckerberg said governments cannot cherry pick which aspects of the web to control and which not to.

The two are leading a group of internet pioneers to the G8 summit in France.

The delegation will deliver recommendations thrashed out at the first e-G8 gathering in Paris this week.

Although e-G8 had the blessing of President Sarkozy, world leaders are under no obligation to listen to its findings.

The comments by Mr Zuckerberg and Mr Schmidt reflect growing concerns in the industry about government censorship.

"People tell me on the one hand 'It's great you played such a big role in the Arab spring [uprisings], but it's also kind of scary because you enable all this sharing and collect information on people'," said Facebook's founder.

"But it's hard to have one without the other. You can't isolate some things you like about the internet and control other things that you don't."

Mr Schmidt echoed his sentiments: "Technology will move faster than governments, so don't legislate before you understand the consequences".

'Public good'

One of the most hotly-debated subjects at the e-G8 was protection of intellectual property on the internet.

In sometimes heated discussions, senior figures from the music, TV and film industries faced criticism from proponents of internet freedom.

Critics claimed that the event was designed to promote the views of rights holders, seeking to lobby governments for tougher copyright laws.

Professor Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School warned delegates: "We should say to modern democratic governments, you need to be aware of incumbents bearing policy fix-its.

"Their job is profit for them. Your job is the public good."

Echoing the views of many participants, Professor Lessig suggested that governments should exercise light touch regulation or risk damaging the still-young internet.

Others made the case that if politicians remained hands-off in the belief that it would help innovation, then existing industries such as music and film would suffer.

James Gianopulos of Fox Filmed Entertainment said governments needed latitude to legislate, as in the case of the French three-strikes law designed to target illegal file sharing.

"The political process is imperfect," Mr Gianopulos told the BBC.

"Private entities, individuals and industries are more likely to come to an agreement if they know that the next step is the litigation or legislation process."

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