Internet Needs Government Role to Avoid ‘Anarchy,’ France’s Sarkozy Says

The Internet needs government involvement to reach its full potential of linking people and boosting economic growth, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said.

“Now that the Internet is an integral part of most people’s lives, it would be contradictory to exclude governments,” Sarkozy today said at a Paris forum of Internet companies. “Nobody should forget that these governments are the only legitimate representatives of the will of the people in our democracies. To forget this is to risk democratic chaos and hence anarchy.”

In his speech to 1,500 delegates at the e-G8 Forum, which is being held before a summit of Group of Eight leaders this week in Deauville, France, Sarkozy said rules were needed to protect copyrights, prevent monopolies and keep harmful material out of the hands of children.

“We won’t take steps that would damage growth in your industry,” he told executives. Among those scheduled to participate were Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg, Google Inc. (GOOG) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and News Corp. (NWSA) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch. “But you can’t escape a minimum set of rules.”

While never mentioning taxes directly, Sarkozy mentioned the costs taxpayers bear in supporting the industry.

“States invest in training programs for those who then join your companies,” he said. “States invest in the technical and technological infrastructure that provide transport for the services and content that are circulated on the Web.”

Sarkozy said the Internet had changed the world as much as the voyages of explorers such as Christopher Columbus. “In a few years, you have rocked the very foundations of the world economy in which you now play a major role,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at 5068 or gviscusi@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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