I am Felipe Rodriquez, Managing director of Xs4all Internet, a large
Dutch provider, and I'm also chairman of the Dutch foundation of
internet providers.

I was asked to do a short lecture about Internet and censorship.

Internet is an emerging market, and at the same time an exciting new
social environment. A space of communications between people of
different nations, with different habits, traditions and legal codes.

Internet is a place without borders. Information travels from one
country to another in a split second. From here to the United States it
takes 100 milliseconds. To Japan the information travels within 300
milliseconds. Nicaragua takes 250 milliseconds and to Australia it
takes the bits and bytes 400 milliseconds. Information crosses many
borders on its path to the final destination.

This challenges the concept of regionally defined cultures. The world
becomes a global village of many cultures. Those cultures are not
necessarily confined to a certain region or location. They are on the
Net, and thus independent of location.

The environment and conditions on the Net change quickly. New
possibilities of communicating with other people emerge on an almost
daily basis. Today people can sound-talk over the Internet, play games
together, send pictures, send video transmissions, radio et cetera.
Never before have people been communicating so massively, on an
international scale. Every person is a medium that generates network

This mash of global cultures, all communicating with each other, creates
a culture shock.  Every culture has its own traditions and codes, and
naturally tries to protect and nurture these values. The traditional way
of protecting ones culture and traditions has always been through
legislation and social control. It is legislation that now threatens
most of the worldwide cultures on Internet.

Legislation on Internet is a slippery road. A communication technology
on this scale is a new concept. It is difficult to legislate a global
social environment. The main problem is the fact that countries try to
legislate a global environment through their own culturally defined
moral codes.

Different things are allowed in different countries. In the US it is
allowed to make racist comments, in Holland it is not. So you see a
migration of the information that Dutch neo-nazi groups put on the
Internet. Vice versa the United States has strict laws against
obscenity, that are much more tolerant in Holland. So you see a
migration of pornographic material towards Holland. From both countries
the information is published on a world wide scale. Implementation of
law for Internet should include a harmonization of some kind in the
area of international legislation.

The United States has implemented the Communications Decency Act. This
law defines unacceptable speech on Internet. You can be criminally
prosecuted for saying the word fuck or other indecent words, if you are
an American. Anything indecent is being suppressed. This proves to be a
law that is impossible to uphold.

The United States government web servers violate the Communications
Decency Act. On the White House web server there is a picture of a
painting that is displayed. The painting shows a family of a mother
with her two children. One of the children is nude. According to the
Decency Act it is forbidden to display this image on the Internet.
There are similar examples on other government systems in the US.

This communications decency act is now being challenged as being
unconstitutional by a group of organizations on Internet that has more
than 40.000 supporters.

Other countries like China, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia have even stricter
guidelines for Internet. No one can use the Internet without prior
government permission. These governments introduce strict control on
the gateways that connect them to the Net.  These countries are afraid
that Internet will give their citizens access to information against
their government and political structure. The Internet is too
democratic for them.

Germany had ordered CompuServe to block off all groups about sex, and
CompuServe then had no other way to shut these groups down worldwide.
Eventually the German ambassador had to explain this action to
President Clinton. A local law was influencing cultures in other

France arrested two internet-providers a couple of weeks ago. They
where held responsible for the publication of child-pornography that
was found on the Net. They did not distribute it themselves, but it was
available somewhere on Internet. After global concern, the French
minister of Interior admitted the arrests where a mistake, and that the
providers could not be held liable.

Prudence is needed because experience must first be acquired. You cannot
legislate something you do not know anything about, but it happens
everywhere on Internet.  Resulting in unworkable situations, and
repression of the people and the market.

Many problems on Internet can be dealt with today. One of those
problems is Child Pornography. In Holland we have started a hotline
against child pornography on Internet. If we get a report about a Dutch
user that is transmitting child-pornography, then we send him a
warning. If that does not stop him, we report that user to the police.
The user gets his chance to test the legal system. The hotline does not
censor, it warns and reports.  This project is a cooperation between
the foundation of Dutch internet providers, the Dutch criminal
intelligence agency, a psychologist, a couple of internet users and the
national bureau against racial discrimination.  The hotline is based on
existing law, and proves that no extra law is needed to fight
child-pornography on Internet. I'm a firm believer of first trying all
the instruments that the existing legislation has to offer. Why bother
about new laws if existing rules are sufficient ?

One of the common concerns is the availability of  obscene and violent
information to children. This is the main argument in the United Stated
to impose strict rules for the Net. But there are already techniques
that can protect children from seeing any these materials. There is
software that is especially made for the purpose of creating a safe
Internet. There is a demand from the market to create these programs,
and thus they are created.

Protection of the children on the Net is not a government task, but an
educational task of the parents of the children. More work is needed to
find solutions for these new problems. Business can only thrive in a
stable environment. And rushing in all kinds of repressive measures is
not a stabilizing factor. It is often easier to introduce new legislation,
than it is to repair old bad legislation.

Thank you !