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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 August 2007, 10:10 GMT 11:10 UK
Call to regulate the net rejected
Screengrab of YouTube website, AFP
Google does not want to take on the role of censor, said Mr Cerf

The internet should not be used as a scapegoat for society's ills, said Vint Cerf, Google's net evangelist and a founding father of the network.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4's Today programme he rejected calls for strict control of what is put online.

He said the net was just a reflection of the society in which we live.

Anyone regulating beyond what was clearly illegal put themselves on a "slippery slope" that could limit freedom of expression, he said.

"If it's not illegal, it raises a rather interesting question about where you do draw the line," he said.

Mirror image

Mr Cerf's comments come after the UK's Conservative Party floated ideas to curb the access young people have to sites such as YouTube which let them see videos showing extreme or callous violence.

Rather than impose controls centrally, said Mr Cerf, it was far better to put them at the edges of the network where users go online.

For instance, said Mr Cerf, searching for results via Google can be constrained by filters that can be set to be strict or lax.

It was a mistake, said Mr Cerf, to divorce what was seen online from what happens in the real world.

"Most of the content on the network is contributed by the users of the internet," he said. "So what we're seeing on the net is a reflection of the society we live in."

"Maybe it is important for us to look at that society and try to do something about what's happening, what we are seeing

He added: "When you have a problem in the mirror you do not fix the mirror, you fix that which is reflected in the mirror.

"We have a job to do, collectively as a society, to deal with the problems we discover in the network," said Mr Cerf, "but suppressing the knowledge of what's going isn't going to help us.

"We need to face that problem directly."

Google has a policy of removing video content when it has been flagged as offensive by users. But the company has been criticised for not acting swiftly enough.

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