Nicolas Sarkozy plans to use France's presidency of the G8 this year to promote international cooperation on greater regulation of the internet, according to reports.
"How do you respond to the problem of terrorism, of paedophilia, to subjects such as the right to be forgotten?" an unnamed source in Sarkozy's entourage was quoted as saying by the AFP this week.
France has been at the forefront of efforts by Western governments in recent years to take more control online, particularly with its HADOPI law, designed to clamp down on copyright infringement. Other governments, including in Britain, are now following suit.
In a country where major newspapers are not known for their aggressive approach to powerful interests, France has also been shaken by the Bettencourt affair, a high society tax and gifts scandal. The story was broken by Mediapart, an investigative online news start-up, provoking more political concern about the effect of the internet.
In a speech at the Vatican in October, Sarkozy declared: "Regulating the internet to correct the excesses and abuses that arise from the total absence of rules is a moral imperative!"
News that he apparently wants use the G8 presidency to promote his views internationally will concern advocates of internet freedom, especially amid the official anger caused by WikiLeaks' recent disclosures.
The AFP's source denied an authoritarian agenda, however.
"This is not to constrain the freedom of the Internet, it is not to reproach the Americans for having taken considerable positions in the matter, but on the contrary it is to see how we can regulate the virtual city while still regarding the internet as an opportunity," the source said.
The plan will be put into action at the next G8 summit, scheduled for May 26-27 in Deauville, Normandy. "Internet experts" will reportedly be convened to compare a report for member states to consider informally.
The Sarkozy government's plans are similar to those suggested by Silvio Berlusconi for Italy's G8 presidency in 2009, which came to nothing. ®