The information society is synonymous with what is meant by "new information and communication technologies" (ICT). Since the beginning of the 90s, the new ICT have been booming. The universal use of electronic exchanges of information, convergence towards digital technologies, the exponential growth of the Internet and the opening up of telecommunications markets are all signs of this change.
The information society is revolutionising many areas of everyday life, particularly access to training and knowledge (distance learning, e-learning related services), work organisation and mobilisation of skills (teleworking, virtual companies), practical life (e-health services) and leisure. It is also providing new opportunities in terms of participation of citizens by making it easier to express opinions and points of view. However, these positive advances go hand-in-hand with new concerns: mass use of the Internet means that steps have to be taken against new criminal behaviour, pirating, and questions of protection of personal data and intellectual property. Moreover, the information society may contribute to the marginalisation of certain sections of society by emphasising social inequalities.
In the light of these potential benefits and threats, the European Union has placed the information society at the heart of its strategy for the 21st century. Among other things it has launched a series of support and promotion actions and adopted measures aimed at controlling and limiting the risks associated with the development of the information society such as an action plan aimed at promoting safe use of the Internet and combating unlawful and harmful messages.