Yahoo has called for "effective" legislation, combined with industry
self-regulation, to deal with online fraud, child abuse and other cybercrime.
The Internet services giant appealed last week for policymakers to
concentrate on defining illegal use of technology, rather than focus on how an action breaks the law.
"Effective policy defines what is legal and what is illegal. If legislation
is concerned with how an action is illegal, it creates rigidity, and means the
legislation won't keep up with the technology," Robin Pembrooke, the director of
product operations for Yahoo Europe, told ZDNet UK.
The lack of global legislation adds to the complexity of the situation,
Pembroke added. "It's not realistic to have global legislation, but we do need
international consistency," he said. "One example is 'child abuse' content,
which has a different definition in the U.S. than in the U.K."
Pembrooke advocated a combination of legislation and self-regulation of
Internet businesses in order to combat cybercrime.
"There are some really good examples of where the industry has come together.
The Internet Watch Foundation is funded by industry, and without legislation,
this approach has achieved fantastic things in the last five years," Pembrooke said.
An Interpol officer agreed with Pembroke's
remarks, and called for a global legislative structure to make international
evidence transfer easier, and international response times quicker.
"(Pembrooke) is completely right, we shouldn't overlegislate," said Bernhard
Otupal, a crime intelligence officer at the Financial and High Tech Crime
Sub-Directorate of Interpol. "In the EU, there are so many different regulations
covering different technologies. What we need is real international legislation
and a global legislative framework."
"There must be a self-regulatory process for the big players, with internal
rules, as that is efficient. However, self-regulation is not enough--you need
both legislation and self regulation," Otupal said.
Yahoo said that over-legislation is incompatible with the needs of its
customers, which needed to be balanced with the needs of governments.
"We find users want freedom of expression, privacy and ease of use. We have
to balance that with the needs of governments looking for increasing access to data," Pembrooke said.
Last year, Yahoo was accused of passing data to the Chinese government that
led to the arrest and imprisonment of two Chinese Internet users, including a
journalist who was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Saying Yahoo felt "horrible" about the political arrests of Internet users in
China, Pembroke underlined that the Web company believes it's better to be there
and cooperate with the authorities than not be there.
"By cooperating with the authorities, we can improve people's lives. By
giving them access to the Internet, this raises awareness in differences in
government approaches, and increase forces for change," he said.
"Our challenge is we have to work inside the laws of the countries we operate in," Pembrooke said.