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To e-G8 or Not to e-G8?

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, May 23 2011

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, some of the boldest bold-faced names in the American Internet business -- Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Google's Eric Schmidt, Amazon's Jeff Bezos -- find themselves in Paris, where they'll be gathering to discuss the economic future of the Internet at a "eG8 event" held on the eve of the G8 get-together where world powers will get together to discuss the economic future of planet earth.

As obviously tempting for Internet industry leaders to get personally invited by Nicolas Sarkozy to descend upon Paris to hash out the future of the global communications network, there's a bit of pushback in the air. Jérémie Zimmermann head La Quadrature du Net, an Internet advocacy organization similar in spirt, to some extent, to the U.S. based Electronic Frontier Foundation. (The somewhat lost-in-translation translation of the groups name is "squaring the 'net.") "The French presidency of the G8 has constantly tried to prevent any statement that would declare the Internet as a universal space of freedom and an essential tool for democracy," wrote Zimmerman in a post picked up by Boing Boing, "or that would promote adequate protection against online censorship and control." The eG8, argues Zimmerman, is little more than a "staged smokescreen," a bid by Sarkozy to entertain Zuckerberg et al in the front room, which in the back room giving an audience to thoughts like that of the CEO of France's main telco that "there is an absolute necessity to find some form of global economic governance of the Internet."

Environmentalist types worry about greenwashing, or the notion that companies have learned how to appropriate the marks and signals of environmentalism without actually doing anything to help the planet. The worry here might be that we're seeing, well, e-washing, hit the global stage. This is going to be an interesting one. Stay tuned.

Update: EFF's Jillian York points us to "civil society" letter on the e-G8 signed by more than a dozen groups.