Speaking at the London Conference on Cyberspace (LCC) today, UK Foreign Minister William Hague laid down seven principles to guide regulation and behaviour online - bringing him into direct conflict with PM David Cameron's call to shut down social networks such as Twitter and BlackBerry Instant Messenger services during crises such as August's London riots.
Calling for governments to "act proportionately and in accordance with international law" to threats in cyberspace from criminals and terrorists, Hague said Britain will always champion freedom of expression - referring to the "heavy hand of state control," a comment that appears in marked contrast to blanket censorship of the type advocated by the Prime Minister (opens in new tab).
In his keynote speech Hague also advocated access for all to the internet, highlighting the need to roll out faster broadband services, enabling users to connect to products and services online regardless of location.
Tolerance and respect for diversity, and openness to innovation, Hague said, were also key principles behind the conference's search for a consensus on internet governance - as was the free flow of information, ideas and expression.
Hague also called for "respect for individual rights of privacy and the protection of intellectual property" - the latter a nod to treaties such as the controversial US-led Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (opens in new tab), criticised by many for playing into the hands of big business with measures such as the 'three strikes" rule on disconnection for illegal file-sharers.
The Foreign Secretary called on governments, private companies and individuals to "act collectively" against threats from cyber-criminals and terrorists, which GCHQ boss Iain Lobban yesterday said had shown a "disturbing" increase over the last year including one major attempt to compromise Hague's own Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Hague highlighted a rise in cyber crime, saying that the internet was afflicted by individual who wanted to "turn our personal information into cash", with more than six million new types of malware detected in first three months of this year.
More than 75,000 people, he said, had downloaded a 'hacktivist' DDoS tool used to bring down government and business website - a reference to the LOIC or 'Low Orbit Ion Cannon', the weapon of choice for online troublemakers Anonymous. He also the threat was not limited to online mavericks, singling out a rise in state-sponsored attacks.
Finally, Hague stipulated that the promotion of competition - a free market online - should become the basis for international online trade.
The London Conference on Cyberspace continues today and tomorrow, with contributions from European digital commissioner Neelie Kroes and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Coverage is streamed live at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's website (opens in new tab).