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Nationalization of the Internet

By Venita Subramanian University of Leeds, Department of International Communications

Introduction For several decades, the topic of internet governance has been gorged with over ambitious policies and promises. The internet being an infrastructure formed outside the standard inter-governmental structure, poses the question of whether or not the internet needs governance at all and in what form. 1The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meeting that was held this year on September 14-17, in Lithuania that titled Developing the Future Together, spurred the 2 (Gregory, 2010)discussion on what direction the UN should take to exert more control over the internet. Ultimately, at the core of the internet debate besets the question of accountability and should this accountability be centralized or decentralized? Nationalisation of internet regulations might seem like a pragmatic solution to shift responsibility in the hands of the government, but the answer to this question is not as black and white. Does nationalizing the regulations mean that the states are devoid of global intervention? In an era where Facebook and Twitter were previously employed in 3election campaigns (US) and overthrowing the 4autocratic regime (in case of Iran), it is evident that the internet is going through some radical changes with the genesis of social media and user generated content. Even innovations in the flow of information are seen with the onset of 5cloud computing where users can access information from a network of data center known as a cloud. With all these cardinal transformations taking place in chorus, what challenge does this impose on policy makers and lawyers to uphold state regulations? Objective The objective of this essay is to give an argument of the need for national as well as global internet governance and why the regulations of the internet will not be completely nationalized when viewed from a global perspective. The essay illustrates the concerns of extensive nationalizing of the internet and the possible threats on the global infrastructure. I have also highlighted the importance and drawbacks of international organizations in shaping national regulations and argued that, although nationalizing the regulations has and will exist; a state cannot be fully isolated in the parallel virtual dimension that coincides. Countries should follow a collaborative approach with international organizations, stakeholders and civil societies that will be conducive to a hybrid model of governance.

Internet Governance Forum; Fifth Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum Chairmans Summary's.Summary.pdf 2 News article in Circle ID by Gregory Francis, Managing Director of Access Partnership 3 Article in Washington Post:Text, Tweet, Win, not so Fast by Shailagh Murrayand 4 Iranians Protest Election, Tweeps Protest CNN


Cloud computing is widely spoken by developers and businesses as the next big thing of the internet. Some analysts define cloud computing as an updated version of utility computing: virtual servers available over the internet. On a broader spectrum some argue that anything you consume outside the firewall is in the cloud Watch talk on cloud computing by Alan Davidson, Head of Policy for Google in Washington

The Need for Internet Governance The Internet has forever subsisted with a reputation as a boundless expanse of information, and for good reason. During the early years of the internet, it was mainly conceived 6as an era of time-sharing and then gradually progressed to 7P2P and network computing. 8Peng Hwa Ang, gave a rather interesting comparison of the internet, as a prospect of a parallel universe that exists. Assuming that the inhabitants of this planet decide to live together, what would compel these different groups to sacrifice certain liberties that preexisted, for them to live peacefully? Ang explores that lack of governance makes users feel like aliens in the virtual environment. It was soon understood that there is a pressing need for internet governance but does this imply that offline regulations of the state can be regulations of the online world? Peng Hwa Ang pins down the regulations of the internet into three phases. The first stage is the inclusion of national laws in the countrys internet framework. According to Ang, the implementation of this stage will define the governments role, rights and responsibility but not necessarily produce similar effects. This led way to the second phase and one of the important issues that he touches is the issue of liability for third party content. The liability issue is also increasingly seen as blogs and open forums carry user generated information that may not correlate to the integrity of the state. But when it comes to implementing laws in the online world, lawmakers become more careful about accepting these regulations due to the arbitrary nature of the internet. It is not unimaginable to find these laws obsolete tomorrow if the internet itself is devoid of that technology. For instance, 9Utah in the USA was worlds first to introduce the digital signature law, but this law didnt take long to be archaic when new digital signature technology emerged. The third evolution as he puts it is consultation from stakeholders, businesses and user communities. This reiterates the fact that governments alone are not sovereign in the virtual world. Freedom of Information Restricted However, when it comes to specific issues such as security, economic, religious and social concerns, every country exercises their power to nationalize the content which they find is inappropriate for public access. The governments usually impose technical enclosures for managing the information flow. Take for example the recent 10Blackberry banning issue that stirred major controversies in the Middle East and India. The UAE and Indian government had threatened to suspend Blackberry services in view of the fact that they had no access to the encrypted messages that was sent directly to the Research in Motions (RIM) servers in Canada. The clash between RIM and the government led to obvious negotiations on what needs to be done next. In a recent 11article published in BBC, the UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) confirmed successful negotiations with the RIM servers and decided to not go ahead with the initial idea to ban the services. Of course one can argue that the ban would have still not been implemented had the RIM refused a positive negotiation. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. When it comes to employing Article 19 in state regulations, most countries both authoritarian and democracies are seen to show resistance to the free flow of information. According to Ronald Koven, World Press Freedom Committee, The notion of openness for the Information Society seems simple enough. And it is, in
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Published by ISOC P2P Peer to peer computing or networking 8 Paper published by Peng Hwa Ang in The power of Ideas: Internet Governance:The evolution of rules for the internet as a model for internet governance 9 Paper published by Peng Hwa Ang in The power of Ideas: Internet Governance:The evolution of rules for the internet as a model for internet governance, more info can also be found in The John Marshall Journal 10 Untangling the blackberry ban by Jane Wakefield 11 United Arab Emirates will not ban Blackberries

principle. In practice is where the complications arise. This shouldn't surprise us. Even the most democratic societies have more problems with openness than they care to admit. It is often seen that national regulation, although enforced with best intentions for the state, restricts the free flow of information on the Internet. 12 We see this in the form of censorship where 13filtering mechanisms through URL blocking, key word filtering or 14crawlers are employed if the content generated is against the political, social or religious sentiments. There are also other extremists in the battles against information such as China and their Golden Shield Policy to control viewership. Rightfully termed as The Great Firewall, the gateway modulated Chinas interaction with the outside world through its online interaction. The government could decide at what rate to develop their connectivity or shut them down if necessary. The main function of the firewall was to prevent the Chinese citizens from viewing content against their political or social views. China claims to follow the principle of guarded openness that seeks to promote economic growth in the global world while restricting foreign economic domination or anti-political campaigns. 15 The Evil Seed of Nationalisation: The Boutique Network Scenario It is easy to see why countries regulate national policies governing the internet, but what could happen if all the countries followed an independent, nationalised governing structure, or so to say the dawn of several internets? In a 16scenario planning exercise by The Internet Society, they revealed the plausible spin of events that could happen ten years into the future. We have here what was termed as The Boutique Networks Scenario. The Boutique Network Scenario envisions a world where unique internet addresses become an exceptional service. The fact that there are too many people all at the same time forces governments and providers to enforce their own boundaries, hence giving rise to many selfgoverning internets. These internets are completely nationalized and cater to limited services that are of governments interests. They will be subject to complex payment schemes that are approved and regulated by the state. With the crash of a global internet, people will be forced to move into one of these several internet clusters. The absence of a global regulation framework and inconsistent technologies will make it impractical for one country to adapt from one another. It now becomes a world where these internets characterize their own rules and prices. Although this scenario is not intended to serve as predictions for the future, they raise potential issues and interesting insights. Another likely outcome is the administration of black propaganda. If all the local and foreign information viewed by each country, goes through a central government authority, chances are the information is going to be manipulated for hidden political and economic benefits. The citizens will be made to perceive the reality through the eyes of their own government making it even more difficult to reach a global perspective. Role of International Organisations In order for national regulations to be effective and concrete, the role of existing international governing bodies should be collaborated in a global and national level. International organisations understand the developmental potentials of the internet and work with governments and stakeholders to progress into a knowledge sharing environment. The Tunis Agenda of the World Summit of the Information

Openness, Harmony and Cacophony Ronald Koven, European Representative, World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), Paris; paper published in The Power Of Ideas: Internet Governance in a Multi Stakeholder Environment

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AIS Electronic Library: Website Blocking Across 10 countries: A Snapshot Web Crawlers are computer programs that browse the World Wide Web in an automated or orderly way 15 Chinas Golden Shield: Corporations and the Development of Surveillance Technology in the Peoples Republic of China by Greg Walton 16 Website of the Internet Society

Society(WSIS), reaffirmed the principles of the Geneva Phase that 17The international management of the Internet should be multilateral, transparent and democratic, with the full involvement of governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations. It should ensure an equitable distribution of resources, facilitate access for all and ensure a stable and secure functioning of the Internet, taking into account multilingualism. The Tunis Agenda also placed importance on multi-stakeholders and government collaboration to work together in identifying developmental strategies and mechanisms that can be implemented in the national, regional and international level. WSIS also works towards mobilization of resources for development projects in developing countries and urges the developed countries to execute their international commitment. The WSIS strives to bridge the digital divide between the different sectors of the community. Through the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a product of the WSIS, many governments and stakeholders discuss the complexities in the ongoing internet governance debate. It is important to note that none of the recommendations or discussions by the IGF are binding which means the final decision making body are the governments and multi-stakeholders. Yet, IGF has been lauded by many as 18an innovate experiment in global governance. One major success of the IGF is its fulfillment of the IGFs mandate from the Tunis Agenda to 19Discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance. Several argue the IGF has done little to extend its reach and follow up on the implementation of the issues address. 20 According to Dr. Jeremy Malcom, the Internet related issues have been mainly addressed in an ad hoc manner rather than a collaborative approach. For example, organizations across authorities who represented the copyright issue had been privately negotiating with the Internet Service Providers (ISP), to limit or terminate the Internet access of customers suspected of illegally sharing copyright material. However, since these discussions took place outside a multi-stakeholder policy body such as the IGF, they have been dominated by the voices of intellectual property owners. Even topics such as Internet monitoring and filtering programmes of countries like China and Iran have not been subject to multi stakeholder consideration. There are many issues that hinder the success of international organizations including the lack of government and other multi-stakeholder support. 21 We also see that the policy debate of internet governance is also of increasing importance to UNESCO particularly because of its mandate in the Constitution to support the free flow of ideas by word and image and to maintain, increase and spread knowledge. UNESCO also endorses concepts such as equal access to education, addressing cultural diversities, linguistic diversity and universal access to information. Instead of global uniformity, UNESCO stresses the importance of plurality and diversity. With the impending growth of the internet, one of UNESCOs vital roles is to ensure that not just one cultural and language supersedes the internet. When more people can communicate bilingually on a global sphere, more cultural groups can share and gain knowledge. Since most of the content is currently in English, huge sectors of the worlds population are unable to join the complete benefits of the internet. If left unmonitored, it could result in a huge decline of other cultural diversities in cyberspace. 22 Over the last years, 23ICANN, is seen making progress in creating multilingual viewership. Recently, the ICANNs attempt to address

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WSIS Outcome documents 2005 Geneva 2003 Tunis 2005 Extract from Appraising the Success of the Internet Governance Forum by Dr. Jeremy Malcomn 19 IGF mandate discussed in Appraising the Success of the Internet Governance Forum by Dr. Jeremy Malcomn 20 Extract from Appraising the Success of the Internet Governance Forum by Dr. Jeremy Malcomn

From article in CircleID Cultural Diversity, Multilingualism and UNESCO; paper published by Kochiro Matsuura, Director General of UNESCO, Paris in The Power of Idea: Internet Governance in a Global Multi-Stakeholder Environment. 23 (ICANN) Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

non Latin content was adopted by Egypt and Middle Eastern countries, making them the first in the series to have what they call the country codes written in Arabic script. This is further said to be implemented in Chinese, Thai and Tamil. Despite its extensions in different languages, domain registration rules and 25DNS security, the biggest concern that arises be it ICANN or IGF is the question of accountability. 26 ICANN however, that started off essentially as a private sector contractor to the United States and then granted an end to the 27Joint Project Agreement (JPL). After this association, ICANN is said to be accountable to a global internet community rather than a single government. In order for ICANN to mature into a recognized autonomous body it has to show strong assertion of both transparency and accountability. At a Board meeting that happened in April 2010, one of the topics of discussion was Meeting our Commitments under the affirmation of commitments. The minutes of meeting noted "strong commitment to accountability and transparency within the organization, including having a senior staff member dedicated, full time, to accountability and transparency work." Thus we see that although there is an existing framework of international organizations that regulate the internet, it still has a long way to go and several issues that need to be addressed for its highest competence. Conclusion The Tunis Agenda for the Information Society coined a well known definition of the Internet governance the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet. 28 The Internet regulations will make the most progress if more attention is paid to strengthening the existing infrastructure of governing bodies and regulate policies first on a global level. Once the basic framework is set, governments can adapt these basic standards and be able to add their cultural and social dimension in line with their internal regulations. Ultimately, it is the government that should take shared responsibility in proper administration, security and infrastructure of the internet. Civil societies, businesses and multi-stakeholders play a vital role in shaping global and subsequently national policies. But there are many complexities when it comes to tackling hurdles in the way of internet governance and discussions dialogue space for countries to share their ideologies and innovations on a common platform must continue to exist. With the growing ubiquity of the internet, the policies should seek to tackle major development issues and advance into a globally connected network.



Article in Circle ID DNS stands for Domain Name System which is a hierarchical naming system built on a database for computers or services connected to the internet 26 From article in CircleID 27 JPL is an agreement between the U.S Department of Commerce and ICANN for joint development of the mechanisms, methods and procedures to effect the transition of internet domain and addressing systems (DNS) to the private sector 28 Towards Multi-Stakeholder Governance The Internet Governance Forum as Laboratory Bertrand de la Chapelle Paper published in the Power of Ideas: Internet Governance in a Global Multi Stakeholder Perspective

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