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Global group debates who will govern Net - if at all

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In the United States, citizens are free to praise Adolf Hitler and the controversial principles of the German dictator's reign during the 1930s and 1940s. But in Germany, pro-Nazi speech is illegal.

So, what happens in the cyberspace world, where thoughts and information can be blitzed around the world with a tap of the keyboard?Can an American and a German have a pro-Nazi chat online, or should it be illegal for the German to participate in such a conversation? Who, if anyone, should patrol the Internet for activities determined to be illegal?

Gov. Mike Leavitt met with 20 European leaders during the weekend to consider the international regulation of cyberspace in a workshop at a castle in the hills outside of Oxford, England.

Leavitt has been out in front of a group of leaders evaluating cyberspace issues in the United States. There has been plenty to consider: how to tax goods purchased on the Internet and how to respect state laws when one state has stricter rules on a topic - like pornography - than another.

"It steps up the discussion a level when you consider international issues," Leavitt said Monday from London.

Leavitt is in England this week meeting with international business leaders, educators and officials.

Leavitt was part of a group of about 20, which included members of the British Parliament, Canadian regulators and international attorneys. They pondered topics that ranged from very technical to intriguing.

For example: To what extent should companies and governments be allowed to code information they send through the Internet?

Companies, banks and countries use algorithms and complex mathematic formulas to scramble sensitive information. In some cases, no one, not even law enforcement coding experts, can unscramble the codes. "The issue isn't whether to incript, but whether you have to deposit the key to the incriptions somewhere," Leavitt explained.

The group tried to answer these questions and the following:

"How should electronic commerce be treated or conducted?

What scope is there for self-regulation?

Should cyberspace be regulated at all?

How do you deal with conflicts of laws between countries? Whose laws govern?

The workshop was sponsored by the Ditchley Foundation, which gathers groups about once a month to talk about issues of international importance. The last seminar was on media and the law, a future seminar will discuss war crimes.

Leavitt said he came away from the two-day discussion with two observations. "I have a much deeper understanding of the complexity of the problem," he said. "And I have a deepened appreciation for how important it is that we not overreact and regulate something that is in its infancy.