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Navigating the Cybersea: Assessing the Potential for International Law in Internet Governance through the Law of the Sea

Navigating the Cybersea: Assessing the Potential for International Law in Internet Governance through the Law of the Sea

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Edward Woodhouse. Originally submitted for IR4539 at University of St. Andrews, with lecturer Dr Michelle Burgis-Kasthala in the category of International Relations & Politics
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Edward Woodhouse. Originally submitted for IR4539 at University of St. Andrews, with lecturer Dr Michelle Burgis-Kasthala in the category of International Relations & Politics

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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10/27/2013

 
 
N
AVIGATING THE
C
YBERSEA:
ASSESSING THE POTENTIAL FOR INTERNATIONAL LAW ININTERNET GOVERNANCE THROUGH THE LAW OF THE SEA
ABSTRACT.
The internet plays an increasingly important role in international relations and everyday life.By looking at the practical similarities between the internet and the high seas, a sharedcommonality between the two emerges. From those similarities, an inspection into theinternational legal framework of the Law of the Seas illuminates a potential capacity for aninternational agreement on internet governance. Other histories from international law lendlessons on how to craft such an agreement and on what content to address, includinginfrastructure and cybersecurity. This essay concludes with an argument for working towardsan international legal framework for the internet.
KEYWORDS:
internet, governance, international law, high seas, cybersecurity
 
“Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and is thetouchstone of all freedoms to which the United Nations isconsecrated;“Freedom of information implies the right to gather, transmit andpublish news anywhere and everywhere without fetters. As such itis an essential factor in any serious effort to promote the peace andprogress of the world . . .”
- Resolution 59 of the United Nations General Assembly
Approximately 377,000,000 individuals accessed the internet for the first time in 2011(ITU). What can one of these people expect when she turns on a computer? The internet is aunique network that connects computers around the world without a what seems to be asingle regard towards physical or political boundary. Fifty years ago, the seas representedmuch the same potential: from this common perception, this paper will use the UnitedNations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to model a potential Law of theInternet and provide lessons on its effectiveness. From this model and by addingcontemporary legal research, the growth potential for a sustainable Law of the Internetbecomes stronger with an alternative structure that still ensures the involvement of voicesfrom around the world. Legal theory will illuminate a plan for a gradual progression of international law into internet governance: this progression will involve not only internationallaw but also corporations, domestic legislation, and international organisations. This paperwill conclude with a defence of the case for internet legal regulation and for the advancementof the free flow of information through the internet. A Law of the Internet can provide greatbenefits to the future development of human rights and transnational communications.
 
1. A UNIQUE NETWORK.
The internet is a unique realm, unlike any other medium of communication or subjectof international law. It stands out in two specific ways: its relation to people and its relationto states. Internet governance is a growing subject in international law that provides forempowered actions not only from involved states but also from interested individuals, privatecorporations, and the technological community. The internet itself then provides challengesto the territorial confines of traditional state sovereignty as an imagined space beyondphysical limitation.
 A. Non-state actors in internet governance.
As a structurally decentralised network, the internet gives equal treatment to everyconnected individual. This decentralised structure is a founding feature of the internet, meantas a security measure (Bilgil), and continued in most areas with the gradual, market-drivenglobal development of the internet (Ostrum 2011, 43). Because of this structure, censorshipand governmental repression are comparatively more difficult to maintain than over othermediums where governments are more closely involved with transmission and management(Drezner 2010, 40). As a result of this, the contributions of dissidents and non-affiliatedindividuals ‘can have a dramatic effect correcting information cascades’ from domesticconflicts and periods of unrest (Ibid). The architecture of the internet innately works as amedium for the rapid and guaranteed transmission of information on a computer-to-computerbasis without the obligation of transferring through a central hub.Indeed, the internet does not directly involve people: it is network amongstcomputers, providing a veil of anonymity for connected individuals. On the internet,‘anonymity . . . prevails’ (Hollis 2011, 378). Through this, a value of non-attribution hasemerged as a facilitator of the ‘freedom of expression and protect[ion of] individual privacy’

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