Sarkozy to host key internet forum ahead of G8 summit

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Media captionInternet bosses are meeting in Paris at a 2 day forum arranged by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, as Christian Fraser explains

The world's most powerful internet and media bosses are gathering in Paris for a two-day meeting hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The heads of Google, Facebook and Microsoft are due to attend to discuss the future of the internet.

The debate over whether - and how far - to regulate the internet is expected to dominate the forum.

The conclusions of the event are to be presented to the G8 summit later in the week at the French resort of Deauville.

This is the first time the internet will be discussed by the leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) wealthy nations, says the BBC's Christian Fraser in Paris.

Internet activists

Two competing visions of the future of the internet will be brought to the fore, says our correspondent.

One, typically held by new firms such as Google and Amazon, favours a hands-off approach from government regulators.

The other view, now more common in Europe, tends to focus on controlling the excesses of the internet, adds our correspondent.

Image caption China has invested heavily in regulating its citizens' access to the internet

Mr Sarkozy reflected this attitude in a speech he gave last year.

"The internet is the new frontier, a territory to conquer. But it cannot be a Wild West. It cannot be a lawless place, where people are allowed to pillage artistic works with no limits," Mr Sarkozy said.

The US was initially reluctant to have the internet included in the agenda of the G8 summit.

President Barack Obama has spoken in the past of the importance of internet freedom to the US economy and its foreign policy.

Issues such as privacy, copyright, competition law and freedom of speech have all been brought to the fore by recent events.

The internet has played a pivotal role in the uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa, with activists mobilising support on social networking sites and posting information and images from events almost as they happen.

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