Web control or Web anarchy?

The ignorant in pursuit of the uncontrollable.



John Riley

Groundswell

The ignorant in pursuit of the uncontrollable. That sums up the fundamental argument of whether government should control the Internet (Computer Weekly, 21 September) - a debate that looks set to escalate in the coming months.

Regulatory issues will arise, for example, with the imminent Communications White Paper, which over the next two years will result in a Bill to rationalise into one authority the powers of all the various existing regulatory bodies (such as Oftel) dealing with telecoms, broadcasting and IT.

Many senior government officials and politicians do not really understand the e-revolution and how it works, yet instinctively they yearn to control its use. On the other hand the e-lobby knows that the global nature of the Internet guarantees that any attempts at control are ultimately doomed to failure, or will at best stifle opportunity.

To government, the concept of control is crystal clear: regulations protect the citizen, and given the human capacity for fraud, monopoly or abuse is constant on or offline, there is no reason why the online world should be treated differently from the offline world.

Civil servants get the job of working out "how" (not "if") control can be effected and made to work. The best do admit the enormities of the task and admit they don't know how to do it. But certainly, expect them to try.

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