EU Internet Proposals Intended to Protect Society

EU Internet proposals to protect society By David Lawsky

EU proposals to regulate content on the Internet are aimed at protecting society not undermining free speech, European Union Media Commissioner Viviane Reding said on Thursday.

Reding spoke at a news conference after a group of European Union culture ministers met to discuss extending rules restricting television content to cover telephones and the Internet as well as over-the-air broadcasts.

She said the proposed regulations reflected "basic societal values" -- the protection of young children and restrictions on incitement to hatred.

She said there is wide agreement on the restrictions against content that "goes too far and ... destroys our society."

"That has nothing to do with free speech, that has to do with the freedom to protect your society on the basis of laws which have been accepted by national and European parliament," she said.

She and others said it will take years to reach agreement.

Reding said without an EU-wide regulation there would be different rules in each of the 25 EU member nations, providing a barrier to the television industry, which would face a patchwork of rules.

She pointed to the example of a French court's decision to bar Lebanon's al-Manar TV from French satellites because it found that the television station broadcast hate speech.

The television station has also faced action against it in the United States, even though the U.S. defines freedom of speech more broadly and will not allow the banning of so-called hate speech.

However, the U.S. Treasury froze the assets of al-Manar satellite television, al-Nour Radio and their parent company, the Lebanese Media Group in March.

At the time, the State Department said al-Manar facilitated the activities of Hizbollah, which the State Department considers a terrorist organization.

Despite that, the television station said it would still be able to beam its programs to U.S. and Canadian homes.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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David Lawsky
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