Cyber Crime - Molenda

A two-day conference in London (November 2-3) to discuss the benefits and risks of policing cyberspace raised a lot of important issues but ended with no consensus on what could be done.

In his opening remarks, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who hosted the event, was adamant that human rights must be protected online. "Not just the right to privacy, but the right to freedom of expression. Human rights are universal. Cultural differences are not an excuse to water down human rights.”

He warned, however, that global treaties to police the web could be counter-productive. “We reject the view that government suppression of the internet, phone networks and social media at times of unrest is acceptable. Nothing would be more fatal or self-defeating than the heavy hand of state control on the internet, which only thrives because of the talent of individuals and of industry within an open market for ideas and innovation.”

Although the remark was clearly aimed at China and Russia and other authoritarian countries, no nation was singled out by name - tacit agreement that global accords are made more difficult with public naming and shaming.

Both China and Russia have pushed for international treaties governing cyberspace, most recently calling for a UN global code of conduct that would make policing the Internet, “the sovereign right of states."

Western states may be concerned about intellectual property theft and hacking into personal and government accounts but authoritarian regimes are more concerned about the role the Internet and social media have played in the popular protests sweeping the Arab world and elsewhere.

US Vice President Joe Biden outlined the Western view. "No citizen of any country should be subject to a repressive global code when they send an email or post a comment to a news article. They should not be prevented from sharing their innovations with global consumers simply because they live across a national frontier.”

Although no concrete action may have been expected on the thorny issues of protecting state secrets and policing cyber warfare by states, many participants were disappointed that no agreement was reached on how to tackle cybercrime, the spread of damaging software and Internet child pornography - issues around which there is widespread concern.

Others acknowledged that the London conference is a first but important step in raising the level of discussion of cyber security and noted that other such conferences have been scheduled in 2012 and 2013.