Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Opinion:let the internet be free

How to regulate the media in the rapidly changing digital environment is a big concern among the media regulators and governments across the world. There are growing worries about the impact of internet and social media on copyright, privacy and piracy issues. In the recent e- G8 summit in France, the leaders of the world’s wealthy nations discussed internet for the first time. It was also attended by Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and Google's Eric Schmidt. During the opening speech France’s president Nichloas Sarkozy claimed that countries could not remain neutral and allow completely unchecked internet use. While the French President called for tougher laws, the participants such as John Perry Barlow, Yochai Benkler, Zuckerberg, and Schmidt spoke out during the event against tight regulatory control of the Internet.

There is a huge difference between developed and developing nations in terms of accessibility and usage of the internet.  While the penetration level of the internet is quite high in the developed world, in the developing countries the access is limited to the affluent and the middle classes.  On a global scale, the internet is still in the evolutionary phase. There should be a wider focus by the governments to optimise the potential of the internet to improve the living standards of people. Emphasis should be more on e-education, e- commerce,and e- health. In this regard, any attempt to regulate the internet could only be self defeating as it would inevitably lead to unintended consequences that could only hamper creativity, innovation and press freedom.

While concerns on piracy, copyright and privacy are genuine, solutions to such problems lay on new technologies (iTunes of example).  There is also a need to review the relationship between the mainstream media and social networking sites. We need to ask can social media be a source of news or should it be a catalyst in driving the news. National press and media laws should be reviewed to reflect the changes in their respective media environment. In overall scheme of things, internet should be kept free form any sort of regulation