UK, US setting up ‘rules’ for cyberspace

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london cyber conference 2011
Britain's Foreign Minister William Hague speaks at the conclusion of the London Conference on Cyberspace at Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster on 2 November, 2011 in London, England. During the two day conference, hosted by British Foreign Secretary William Hague, delegates from 60 countries are discussing the rise of cyber crime and how to combat it. Photo - Suzanne Plunkett/ WPA Pool/Getty Images

Facebook, Twitter and other websites were instrumental not only in the Arab Spring but helped rioters in London organise looting sprees. Sensing the threat, British PM David Cameron was keen on imposing ban on the social networks after the riots in London and other parts. British Foreign Secretary William Hague opposed the ban and said free speech online was one of the “fundamental building-blocks of democracy”.

However David Cameron is aware that he could face serious criticism and accusations of hypocrisy over the banning of Internet.

The British PM said in parliament that his government is working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services”.

Cameron administration was not successful in restricting the Internet. The representatives of Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry were called in a meeting with the Home Secretary after the riots to discuss the possibilities of using the technology to gather intelligence that could help the government for better vigilance in case of further crisis.

The ongoing London Conference on Cyberspace is focused on comprehensive dialogue to help guide the behaviour of netizens. Government officials, tech firms, NGOs, bloggers and security experts from more than 60 countries are attending the two-day talks in London on 1 and 2 November.

Hague said agreement “must be pursued with the same intensity as efforts to eradicate global poverty or tackle climate change”.

He also said that cultural differences are not an excuse to water down human rights, nor can exploitation of digital networks by a minority of criminals or terrorists be a justification for states to censor their citizens.

“The idea of freedom cannot be contained behind bars, no matter how strong the lock,” he said in his speech at the conference.

“We reject the view that government suppression of internet, phone networks and social media at times of unrest is acceptable,” he added.

Echoing the same principles, UK Prime Minister David Cameron called for global collaboration to fight cyber crime. “This is a cross-border problem that needs cross a cross-border solution,” he said.

“International cyber security is a real and pressing concern with daily attempts on an industrial scale to steal corporate and government secrets,” he said.

Joe Biden is also taking part in the conference and said the US was also making significant investments in countering cyber threats, including the appointment of cyber co-ordinator Howard Schmidt.

Biden said five billion people are expected to connect to the internet in the next 20 years. “The benefits they enjoy will depend on the choices we make now,” he said.

Cameron highlighted the UK’s investment of 650m in cybersecurity as an indication of how important the UK government regards this issue.

Both the UK and US government are committed in working together to set up rules for today’s cyber free-for-all, and also Hungary had agreed to hold a follow-on conference in 2012, and South Korea would hold another similar meeting in 2013.

Sources: Telegraph, Computer Weekly, News24

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