World governments need to enforce a minimum set of global rules for the digital world, Nicolas Sarkozy has told representatives of online companies attending the e-G8 forum in Paris.
The two-day e-G8 forum brings together together Internet and media world gurus like Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to discus the impact of the internet.
"I don't believe in a minimum set of rules on a national level. [The] internet is global...we can't continue to think that rules are national," Sarkozy said in an opening speech, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The theme of the two-day forum is The Internet: Accelerating Growth. Sarkozy said its conclusions would be communicated to heads of state at the G8 economic forum taking place in Deauville, France, on Thursday and Friday.
The e-G8 comes at a time of simmering concerns that some countries — including several in Europe, including France — have moved to curb Internet freedoms. Social media was heavily relied upon by those pushing for greater freedoms across the Arab world, with many protesters mobilizing via Twitter or Facebook.
Sarkozy said the internet had been a revolution that had changed people's perception of time, of the world and history, the Guardian reports. However, he said the internet could not be allowed to become a "parallel universe" or a replacement for traditional democracy.
"You have given every individual the chance to be heard everywhere by anyone. People have never had this chance before in history, but that right cannot be held by destroying the rights of others. Total transparency has to be balanced by individual liberty. Do not forget that every anonymous internet user comes from a society and has a life."
He added: "Governments are the legitimate guardians of our societies and do not forget this."
Sarkozy also said that while any rules on internet governance could not hamper growth, companies needed to act responsibly and contribute to state finances.
"You can't be exempt from minimum rules, which shouldn't damp your development though," he said, the WSJ reports. "Do not forget that it is in the commitment of your companies to contribute fairly to national ecosystems that the sincerity of your promise will be assessed."