- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 1, 2011

U.S. and British officials argued against global regulation of the Internet on Tuesday, telling an international conference in London that transparency, diversity and innovation on the Web are key to the prosperity and freedom it brings.

“No citizen of any country should be subject to a repressive global code when they send an email or post a comment to a news article,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden told representatives of 60 governments via video from Washington.

“In our quest for security … we cannot sacrifice the openness” that makes the Internet so powerful, he said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had been scheduled to attend the two-day event - the first global intergovernmental conference on cyberspace - but stayed in Washington at the last minute Monday to be with her ailing mother, Dorothy Rodham, who died Tuesday at age 92.

Mr. Biden rejected calls for a U.N. code of conduct for the Internet.

That “would lead to a fragmented Internet, one that does not connect people but divides them; a stagnant cyberspace, not an innovative one, and ultimately a less secure cyberspace with less trust among nations,” he said.

He added that to enjoy the benefits of the Internet, nations had to embrace the openness it brought.

“Those countries that try to have it both ways by making the Internet closed to free expression but open for business will find that this is no easy task,” Mr. Biden said.

“There isn’t a separate social Internet, political Internet and economic Internet. They are all one. It’s simply the Internet.”

It was message echoed by British officials.

“Nothing could be more fatal or self-defeating than the heavy hand of state control on the Internet,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

He said Britain had proposed “seven principles as a basis for more effective cooperation” among governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations.

The seven principles include the need for governments to act “proportionately … and in accordance with international law” in cyberspace, the universal right to access the Internet, the right to privacy and to the protection of intellectual property, and the need for “collective action” by governments to tackle cybercrime.

The principles also call for promoting “a competitive environment which ensures a fair return on investment in networks, services and content” and “ensuring cyberspace remains open to innovation and the free flow of ideas,” Mr. Hague said.

A senior State Department official, briefing reporters in advance of the conference, said the United States opposes the idea of more global regulation of the Internet by treaties as well as by the United Nations.

“We’ve had proposals about treaties for cyber-arms control in the past, for treaties that try to lock in some government control of the Internet,” the official said. “And I don’t think a treaty really is the way to go.”

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