Clinton: Hands Off the Net

amaxwell@govexec.com

In an attempt to establish an environment in which "electronic commerce can grow and flourish," President Clinton on Tuesday released a report recommending a hands-off, no-new-taxes approach to government regulation of the Internet.

"The Internet can, and should be, a truly empowering force for large and small business people alike," Clinton said. "Because the Internet has such explosive potential for prosperity, it should be a global free-trade zone."

Where government involvement is necessary, Clinton said, its aim should be "to support a predictable, consistent, legal environment for trade and commerce to flourish on fair and understandable terms." He also said government should work to revise existing laws inhibiting electronic commerce.

The report, called "A Framework for Global Electronic Commerce," contains five basic principles:

  • The private sector should lead. Governments should encourage industry self-regulation and private sector leadership.
  • Governments should avoid undue restrictions on electronic commerce.
  • Government's role should not be to regulate, but to ensure competition, protect property and privacy, prevent fraud, and facilitate dispute resolution.
  • Governments should work to recognize the unique qualities of the Internet.
  • Electronic commerce on the Internet should be facilitated on a global basis.

To ensure that these principles are in place by Jan. 1, 2000, Clinton directed all department and agency heads to review policies affecting global electronic commerce and make sure they are consistent with the principles.

Clinton also called on the private sector to ensure implementation of effective methods to protect the privacy of every American, especially children who use the Internet.

Clinton's announcement came on the heels of a Supreme Court decision applying constitutional free speech protections to online systems.

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