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Like This? Sarkozy Makes Friends at e-G8

Nicolas Sarkozy has invited the digital industry to pop to Paris for a few days this week to chew the fat before the G8 summit. And I’m going along for the ride.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy
Getty Images
French President Nicholas Sarkozy

You think he’d be busy what with all those red carpets to shampoo in Deauville and the baby stuff he and Carla need to buy, but such is the buzz around the sector he’s found the time to host a forum on how the Internet can accelerate economic growth.

Last week two events convinced me that social networking is coming of age.

The LinkedIn crew made a tonne of dough in a stellar IPO. And Lady Gaga knocked Oprah off the top spot in Forbes Most Powerful Celebs list, proving 10 million Twitter followers, in some circles at least, beats a boring old print and telly media empire.

And so to the e-G8… A name that can only have dreamed up in an i-moment of desperation.com to get the e-kids on side.

At the Palais des Tuileries this week, as Producer Rose and I munch our way through a few dozen pains au chocolate on expenses, attention will surely turn to the biggie in social networking, Facebook.

Social media bazillionaire Mark Zuckerberg will be there with his COO Sheryl Sandberg, who last week said an IPO for the business is now inevitable.

The question is, at what price? And is this another bubble?

Plenty of people think so, citing the doubling of LinkedIn’s shares in the first day of trade despite the lack of profits from company.

Plus, money is pouring into Internet start-ups again. Not as much as a decade ago, but recent data from Thomson Reuters Deals Intelligence shows more than $5 billion of venture capital investment flowed into young web companies globally in the first four months of the year.

But if you’re looking for reasons to be optimistic about the outlook for tech investors cast your eye a little further down the attendance list. Eric Schmidt will represent Google and Jeff Bezos from Amazon is popping along too.

Goodness knows, the economies of several of the G8 countries need all the help they can get in the economic growth department.

There is a rather more shadowy side to this event though. Sarkozy is known for his espousal of the so-called “civilised Internet” and his critics believe he’s the out and out enemy of the free, open philosophy of the digital community. They believe he’s using the event to finagle high-profile support for his philosophy of more central control and censorship of the web.

In the meantime Sarko and his newly-minted social networking chums have to figure out how to save the global economy in time to report back to the G8 on Thursday, which should keep them busy.

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