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Friday, 1 September, 2000, 20:44 GMT 21:44 UK
Governments told: 'Hands off internet'
Chinese internet users
US internet users are now outnumbered by others
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Governments should get out of the way and let the internet revolution roll on says a report by an influential net analysis group.

The US Internet Council's "State of the Internet 2000" report was released on Friday and it said that unless governments are careful they will do more to harm the net than help it.

Governments need to recognise the amazing benefits of the internet and do nothing to cripple it

US Internet Council

It warns that heavy-handed attempts by government to make the net a safer place for consumers and companies risks stifling its growth.

The 60-page report is a round up of data about the internet and aims to be a snapshot of the changes it is bringing about and the direction it might take.

"Governments need to recognise the amazing benefits of the internet and do nothing to cripple it," says the report.

It says the internet has potential to educate, bring people together, foster new forms of communication and radically change the economics of business.

It adds that although governments can see the benefits of the internet, too many are concentrating on efforts to control cybercrime.

The result, warns the report, could be restrictive policies that deter people from going online rather than encouraging them to use it more.

Instead, it says, the internet should be left to regulate itself.

Digital divisions

The report calls on governments to take an active interest in educating net users on ways to protect themselves and their personal information when online.

It recommends that efforts to protect internet users should be taken on an international rather than a national level.

Giving people confidence that information about them is safe will boost the take up of electronic commerce and bolster national economies, says the report.

It also says more could be done to close the gap between the "have nets" and the "have nots".

The authors recognise that more than half of the people online live outside the US, but say the growth of the net outside the US could be stunted unless efforts are made to take communication technologies to the poorest nations.

The Internet Council was formed in 1996 as an independent think tank that provides advice to governments on the development of the net and the policies needed to nurture it.

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See also:

31 Jan 00 | Education
Centres to bridge 'digital divide'
28 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Britain digitally divided say ministers
04 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
G8 ministers warn of IT divide
11 Jul 00 | UK
The world wide what?
15 Jul 00 | South Asia
Telecoms boost for India
21 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
When the web is not world-wide
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