By Tom Espiner
March 31, 2006
Yahoo has called for "effective" legislation, combined with industry
self-regulation, to deal with online fraud, child abuse and other
The Internet services giant appealed on Thursday for policymakers to
concentrate on defining illegal use of technology, rather than focus
on how an action breaks the law.
"Effective policy defines what is legal and what is illegal. If
legislation is concerned with how an action is illegal, it creates
rigidity, and means the legislation won't keep up with the
technology," Robin Pembrooke, the director of product operations for
Yahoo Europe, told ZDNet UK.
The lack of global legislation adds to the complexity of the
situation, Pembroke added. "It's not realistic to have global
legislation, but we do need international consistency," he said. "One
example is 'child abuse' content, which has a different definition in
the U.S. than in the U.K."
Pembrooke advocated a combination of legislation and self-regulation
of Internet businesses in order to combat cybercrime.
"There are some really good examples of where the industry has come
together. The Internet Watch Foundation is funded by industry, and
without legislation, this approach has achieved fantastic things in
the last five years," Pembrooke said.
An Interpol officer agreed with Pembroke's remarks, and called for a
global legislative structure to make international evidence transfer
easier, and international response times quicker.
"(Pembrooke) is completely right, we shouldn't overlegislate," said
Bernhard Otupal, a crime intelligence officer at the Financial and
High Tech Crime Sub-Directorate of Interpol. "In the EU, there are so
many different regulations covering different technologies. What we
need is real international legislation and a global legislative
"There must be a self-regulatory process for the big players, with
internal rules, as that is efficient. However, self-regulation is not
enough--you need both legislation and self regulation," Otupal said.
Yahoo said that over-legislation is incompatible with the needs of its
customers, which needed to be balanced with the needs of governments.
"We find users want freedom of expression, privacy and ease of use. We
have to balance that with the needs of governments looking for
increasing access to data," Pembrooke said.
Last year, Yahoo was accused of passing data to the Chinese government
that led to the arrest and imprisonment of two Chinese Internet users,
including a journalist who was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Saying Yahoo felt "horrible" about the political arrests of Internet
users in China, Pembroke underlined that the Web company believes it's
better to be there and cooperate with the authorities than not be
"By cooperating with the authorities, we can improve people's lives.
By giving them access to the Internet, this raises awareness in
differences in government approaches, and increase forces for change,"
"Our challenge is we have to work inside the laws of the countries we
operate in," Pembrooke said.
Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.
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