International Organization and Cybergovernance
Summary and Keywords
The internet is commonly defined as “a worldwide network of computer networks that use the TCP/IP network protocols to facilitate data transmission and exchange.” A related term is “cyberspace,” which has a broader connotation suggestive of the virtual worlds that emerge from the internet, including chat rooms, three-dimension game environments, and online forums. A primary feature of internet governance is self-regulation. From content to protocols to addressing schemes, numerous networked forms of self-regulation have helped govern the internet. One of the issues of significance to internet governance has to do with the governance processes associated with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the politics associated with the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS). Other questions arising from internet governance include those relating to cybercrime, internet security, surveillance and privacy, and the idea of network neutrality. One problem that needs to be addressed with regard to internet governance is that there is no single regime for internet governance inasmuch as there are several multiple and overlapping governance domains—what W. H. Dutton calls the “mosaic” of internet governance. Future research should focus on whether to consolidate around a single regime with a single global governing body, as well as how to control the “arms race” on the internet.
Keywords: internet, internet governance, self-regulation, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, World Summit of the Information Society, cybercrime, internet security, surveillance, privacy, network neutrality
There is no one “field” of internet governance, either in practice or in scholarship. Instead a multitude of fields, many of which intersect and overlap, and a diversity of scholarship characterize the domain. Unlike other issue-areas in international organization, therefore, there is not a single cumulative domain of scholarship that can be easily charted back to its roots or explained as orbiting around a set of primary questions and classic texts. There are numerous references to the impacts of information and communication technologies (ICTs), and even some scholars who have attempted to grapple with the question of how these technologies are transforming world politics as a whole. But it cannot be said that there is either a distinct meta-regime or field of internet governance, and most allusions to the technology’s impacts do so only in a cursory way. As one of the long-standing and senior scholars in this area summed it up:
ICT global governance is a horizontally cross-cutting “field of fields” that is generally not recognized to be such, including by many who are actually in it. For a number of reasons, there has been little effort to view international institutions and cooperation in the various domains of ICT global governance as comprising a united terrain meriting integrative or comparative inquiry.
Drake goes on to describe how instead we find scholars from many different disciplines – political science, sociology, law, communication studies, business – contributing to this “field of fields.” Much of their scholarship is focused on their home disciplines and the area as a whole lacks a shared vocabulary, making it appear quite fragmentary. In time, this “heteropolarity” of the practice and scholarship may congeal and produce a common set of questions in a single domain (Der Derian 2003). What we outline below, however, are the many sites of internet governance and the scholarship associated with each of them.
The Ungovernability Myth
Before reviewing the literature on sites of internet governance, it is important to tackle two major myths in this area, and then define the object of investigation (however difficult the latter may be). Throughout its history, common perceptions of the internet have been characterized by two prominent and closely related myths. The first, and arguably the founding myth, is that the internet is an ungoverned, anarchic space that no state, corporation, or other modern institution of governance can control. From this perspective, it is a unique medium of communication whose decentralized, networked architecture makes it resistant to traditional governance. This resiliency, it is argued, can be traced back to one of the internet’s constitutive design principles as a US military communications system meant to withstand a nuclear attack. This myth is summed up by the widely cited phrase coined by internet pioneer John Gilmore: “The internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” It is a space of constant innovation and change, according to the myth, too dynamic for cumbersome bureaucracies to capture and regulate. We take up the scholarship contributing to this myth below.
The other founding myth of the internet, closely related to the first, is that the space of internet communications – often referred to as “cyberspace” – constitutes a distinct realm of interaction separate from physical reality: a virtual reality. Although the concept of virtual reality can be traced back to at least the time of Plato, it has dominated the culture of the internet, computers, and digital technologies since their inception. From the first text-based, multi-user dimensions to the vast expanses of the online interactive world Second Life, cyberspace has offered intensely attractive and seemingly all-consuming worlds of their users’ own making. By emphasizing the disconnect from material reality – or “meat space” as it is sometimes called – this type of virtual “world creationism” feeds into and complements the other founding myth of the cyberspace and contributes to arguments concerning the internet’s uniqueness.
Although there are parts of these myths that have a basis in reality, they have obscured much that is important about governance of the internet. Contrary to the myths above, the internet is very much a governed space. At the most basic level, it is governed by rules of physics as well as code, which give it predictability and finite characteristics. It is governed by consensual practices among the network’s providers and operators that have their basis in norms without which the internet could not function. It is increasingly governed in a covert way, by actors – states and corporations primarily – who understand how leveraging and exploiting key nodes within the physical infrastructure of the internet can give them strategic political and economic advantages. International relations theorists have only begun to grapple with many of these domains; some very large gaps in scholarship remain.
Defining the Internet
What is the internet? There are perennial debates about how to define the internet and distinguish it from related concepts, like cyberspace, information and communication technologies, and media. The internet is typically defined as “a worldwide network of computer networks that use the TCP/IP network protocols to facilitate data transmission and exchange” (Abbate 1999). Although this definition is accurate and important, it is primarily focused on the material infrastructure of networked devices while excluding from consideration other important nonphysical elements and characteristics. The related term “cyberspace,” coined by science fiction author William Gibson, has a broader connotation suggestive of the virtual worlds that emerge from the internet, including three-dimension game environments, chat rooms, and even lists and other online forums (Gibson 1984). Although it is occasionally used as a synonym for the internet in popular discourse, it is infrequently used in the IR literature. Unless referring to scholarship that explicitly uses the term “cyberspace,” we employ the term “internet” throughout this essay.
Scholarship on the Pre-history of Internet Governance: Media, Telecommunications and World Order
To have a proper appreciation of the scholarship around internet governance, one must go back and explore some of the defining contributions to the study of media, communications, and governance more broadly. Although the field of international relations and technology is poorly developed over all, there have been some important classic works that have helped shape the field of inquiry. It is important to set the context for internet governance by establishing the importance of these works.
Karl Deutsch is probably the single most important IR theorist to deal with communications, and his pioneering work on communication flows, feedback, and systems, particularly in terms of the growth of nationalist identities, is very influential (Deutsch 1953; 1957; 1963). Although Deutsch did not focus on variations in media and how these might impact collective identities and the character of politics, his quantitative approach can be seen as a harbinger of the type of work done in the area of data mining, fusion and visualization today, as well as those focusing on power, authority and issue-framing within social networks, referred to below. He should be considered for that reason one of the grandfathers of the study of internet governance, though he never contributed to it directly per se.
The question of system transformation has always loomed large in international relations, and scholars have often remarked on the ways in which the internet and related information and communication technologies (ICTs) might contribute to such a transformation. Although he did not focus on the internet explicitly, James Rosenau’s work on the perturbations in world politics caused by new information technologies to world politics are widely cited and have had enormous influence across a wide range of debates (Rosenau 1990; 2003). One of his most farsighted contributions has been to underscore the ways in which individuals have been empowered by these technologies, what he called the “skill revolution,” and not always with outcomes that are favorable or stable to the world system. Although it is now fashionable for social scientists to draw from some of the concepts related to complexity theory, Rosenau’s early grasp of the cyclonic character of international politics as a result of new technologies of communication will likely be considered foundational for many years to come and presage many of the core characteristics of the internet today: the generative powers of individuals at edge locations of the network (Zittrain 2007), and the often disturbing consequences of such empowerment.
One tradition of scholarship that examines system transformation, but largely outside of the international relations field, is medium theory. The latter is associated primarily with the work of the so-called Toronto School of Communications, beginning with Harold Innis (Innis 1950; 1951) and Marshall McLuhan (McLuhan 1962), and then revived by Ronald Deibert (among others) to focus on the development of “hypermedia” – digital-electronic-telecommunications (Deibert 1997). The main contribution of medium theory is that modes of communications are not empty or transparent vessels, but have a major impact on what is communicated and how. Although many critics have charged medium theory, and especially its earliest representatives, with technological determinism, Deibert’s borrowing of metaphors from notions of evolutionary “fitness” sidesteps some of the main problems. For Deibert, a number of social forces and ideas “fit” the hypermedia environment, including transnational production, globalized finance, transnational social movements, and postmodern “mentalities.” Written in 1997, many of these predictions seem now to have been borne out, although the forecasting of the demise of state sovereignty does seem overdrawn. Deibert’s work is critiqued and extended by Geoffrey Herrera, who argues for the inherently political nature of technological transformation, and the indeterminacy of system change related to technological change (Herrera 2002; 2003).
Although the internet is a distinct domain, it could not exist without the material infrastructure and related technologies that support it. One of the most important of these is telecommunications technology. Internet governance is inherently related to governance of telecommunications. Telecommunications governance is one of the oldest domains in international cooperation, with the International Telegraph Union (predecessor to today’s International Telecommunication Union) being the first international organization. In the decades prior to the full-blown emergence of the internet, a scholarly literature emerged, drawing primarily from regime theory, around international telecommunications governance, and in particular the trend that began in the 1970s towards deregulation and privatization of the global telecommunications regime. The two key IR works on the telecommunications regime are Cowhey (1990) and Krasner (1991). Cowhey (1990) argues that the telecommunications regime was not only a response to technological innovation and market forces, but also the result of a new, shared understanding based on free trade and privatization. Krasner (1991) contends that state power mattered the most in defining the features of the new regime. According to Krasner, the power of the United States and its changing conception of its national interest best explain regime change in the telecommunications sector and not new shared understandings emerging from an epistemic community. Adding to the debate, Zacher and Sutton analyzed telecommunications regime from a neoliberal perspective (Zacher and Sutton 1996). William Drake (Drake 2000) provides a historical overview of the demise of the telecommunications regime. These studies of the global telecommunications regime – though largely ignored by later theorists of the politics of the internet – are foundational and should be considered essential to a comprehensive understanding of internet governance. Although the introduction and maturation of the internet has arguably led to the demise of the power and centrality of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the institution has not disappeared and still has relevance to internet governance today (see in particular the sections below on Mueller, ICANN, and WSIS).
Sites of Internet Governance
Role of the State
Early debates on internet governance are framed between two poles. The first is the position that the internet cannot be regulated by the state, as geographically based legal regulations do not apply to the nonterritorial spaces of the internet. According to this stance, which echoes the foundational myths outlined earlier, the only feasible form of internet governance is self-regulation by participants. The leading proponents of this position are David Johnson and David Post (Johnson and Post 1996; Post 1996). Related to this position are those that argue the internet constitutes a distinct “place” (Hunter 2003a). The counterposition to this argument is that state regulation is feasible, likely, and legitimate. Governance of the internet may present special challenges, but ultimately it is not qualitatively different than any other issue-area of world politics. Jack Goldsmith first introduced this position in his now classic paper “Against Cyberanarchy” (Goldsmith 1998) which has since been updated with Timothy Wu (Goldsmith and Wu 2006).
In recent years the uniqueness-of-the-internet argument has not been as popular and has come to be seen as idealist. Most scholars accept that governmental regulation is important, perhaps necessary, and according to some even growing in scope, scale and sophistication (Post 2002). Kalathil and Boas wrote a widely cited study that acknowledged that governments can and do intervene to control internet communications, largely drawing from anecdotal evidence from the experiences of authoritarian regimes (Kalathil 2003).
The question of whether states could effectively regulate the internet was challenged by the work of the OpenNet Initiative (ONI), which has undertaken a series of pioneering interdisciplinary studies of internet content filtering and surveillance in dozens of countries around the world. Unlike earlier, more anecdotal treatments, the ONI relies on a combination of contextual and technical/quantitative approaches and in particular a unique series of network interrogation tests. The unique contribution of the ONI is to combine field investigations, technical reconnaissance, and large-scale data analysis to check for internet accessibility of thousands of categorized websites and keywords across dozens of countries. In a series of case studies, and two major global comparative analyses, the ONI has provided documentation and analysis of the increasing scope, scale, and sophistication of internet filtering worldwide (Deibert et al. 2008). The ONI’s most recent publication, Access Controlled: The Shaping of Power, Rights, and Rule in Cyberspace, documents the emergence of “next generation” internet controls that go beyond mere denial of information (Deibert et al. forthcoming). These new techniques, which aim to normalize (or even legalize) internet control, include targeted viruses and the strategically timed deployment of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, surveillance at key points of the internet’s infrastructure, take-down notices, stringent terms of usage policies, and national information shaping strategies. Access Controlled also presents evidence of more than 30 countries filtering access to internet content worldwide and documents the role of private companies, such as ISPs and search engines, facilitating state internet censorship policies and practices.
Some interpret this increased intervention as demonstrating not only the capacities of states to influence internet communications but also as a growing militarization of the internet environment (see “Internet Security” below). Another important work emphasizing the role of the state is provided by Daniel Drezner, who challenges the common assumption that the internet leads to decline in state autonomy relative to other global actors (Drezner 2004). In addition, he argues that the great powers remain the primary actors shaping the governance structure and regulatory standards of the internet.
Although the internet remains an elusive target for state governance, the idea that states are unable to shape its environment is overdrawn. Rather than proclaiming the end of sovereignty as was once thought, scholarship has moved on to consider some of the thorny jurisdictional challenges raised by the transnational organization of the internet with respect to state sovereignty, around issues like data protection, privacy, cybercrime, and others that are outlined below. The internet may feel like a different realm, separate from reality, but the actions that take place through it, and the material infrastructure that supports it, rest very much in political jurisdictions. It is the complex challenges presented by its transnational organization and constant dynamism that makes the internet relevant to, but not triumphant over, state sovereignty.
From its beginnings, one of the central features of internet governance has been self-regulation. From content to protocols to addressing schemes, numerous networked forms of self-regulation have helped govern the internet, and scholars have both heralded and criticized them, although mostly from a United States domestic politics perspective. For example, Netanel explores whether “bottom-up, private ordering” of the internet could best protect liberal democratic principles on its own, and concludes that it cannot (Netanel 2000). He advocates instead for limited government intervention to protect and preserve it but does not discuss how to square the numerous affected state jurisdictions with that advice.
The most compelling work explores specific national or organizational cases. Newman and Bach explore differences between United States and European approaches to self-regulation of the internet in the areas of online content regulation and data privacy (Newman and Bach 2004). Farrell draws from international relations and legal scholarship to develop a framework for understanding when states will use private actors as a proxy for regulation, or create hybrid institutions that represent a mix of private and public, in areas related to internet governance, such as gambling, privacy, and e-commerce (Farrell 2003; 2006). In a related vein, Cowhey and Mueller (2009) explore the delegation and networking theory literature to analyze the conditions under which the United States delegates decision-making power.
Zittrain and Palfrey also explore the issue of corporations acting as proxies for governments, particularly in the area of policing online content (Zittrain and Palfrey 2008). They explore some of the ethical issues involved and suggest a voluntary code of conduct that could guide corporate behavior in multiple state jurisdictions. Such a code has in fact materialized in practice in the form of the Global Network Initiative (GNI) and as a consequence presents a strong case for the general study of corporate self-governance in other areas of international relations (Ruggie 2001). As a mix of private and public actors characterizes internet governance, questions of self-regulation and private authority in this domain are of course critical, though largely underdeveloped by IR theorists specializing in this area (Sassen 2000). Internet governance cannot take place without the participation of private actors simply because ownership over the vast majority of the internet’s infrastructure rests in the hands of private actors. This characteristic creates important constitutive features for global governance that should be of inherent interest to IR theorists working in the area of private authority.
ICANN and WSIS
If there is one issue-area that is most closedly associated with internet governance writ large, it is the governance processes associated with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and its associated forums, such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Given the centrality of the organization to one important aspect of internet governance – namely management of top-level domains and addressing issues – it is not surprising that the bulk of the IR scholarship on internet governance revolves around the issues raised by ICANN. A key text from a very important scholar in this domain is Milton Mueller’s 2002 book Ruling the Root, which provides a comprehensive history and analysis of ICANN and related domain-name system (DNS) governance issues (Franda 2001; Mueller 2002). Mueller is a leading scholar in this field with a range of publications that analyze the mechanisms of governance associated with ICANN from a variety of theoretically informed perspectives (Mueller 1999; 2006; 2007; Mueller and Thompson 2004).
Although there are many issues pertaining to ICANN, one of the most important concerns its unique deliberative procedures and some of the controversies related to them. For some, ICANN represents a unique grassroots and transparent form of deliberation. Unlike many other international organizations, for example, its discussions and decisions are posted online for all to examine. Others see it is as a vehicle for the exercise of US interests over the internet, or an exemplar of how private interests can capture deliberative processes. Other scholarship examines the European Union in DNS governance (Burkert 2003; Christou and Simpson 2007), the relationship between ICANN and civil society (McDowell and Steinberg 2001), and problems of legitimacy and accountability overall (Froomkin 2000; Weinberg 2001; Hunter 2003b). Although ICANN is not the only international organization for the internet, it is one important forum of internet governance. Almost certainly it will be a focal point of controversy for internet governance in years to come (Drissel 2006).
A similar growing literature has emerged around the politics and processes associated with another forum related to internet governance – the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) and its follow-on, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). Created by the United Nations in 2002, and led by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), WSIS was originally conceived of as a vehicle for the rapid promotion of telecommunications in the developing world. It was also seen as a way for the ITU to re-leverage some legitimacy in internet governance after being marginalized in the 1990s by deregulation and the spread of the internet. With the dot-com bust, however, the material sources driving the original mandate dried up, and WSIS’s broad goals faded. The forum has continued however, and represents a space for civil society and other stakeholders to organize and meet to discuss internet governance issues in ways they are otherwise precluded from doing, either in traditional ITU venues or at the more technically minded and narrowly focused ICANN.
Much of the literature about WSIS, and its follow-on the IGF, has been narrowly focused on policy issues, and very little of that can be characterized as theoretically informed. Some exceptions include those focusing on the social networks that formed around WSIS processes and their impacts, as well as the prospects for wider participation by marginalized groups in multistakeholder processes (Selian 2004). Mueller, Mathiason, and Klein, for example, reflect on the global internet governance regime as a whole, including both IGF and ICANN, and argue that regime construction has failed because there is no underlying agreement on principles and norms (Mueller, Mathiason, and Klein 2007). They go on to suggest some preferred ones, while recognizing the prospects for their full realization are slim. More recently, they have argued for “network neutrality” as a possible operating principle of internet governance, while recognizing the limitations of its widespread acceptance today (see the discussion of network neutrality below).
One of the vexing areas raised by cyberspace governance concerns the jurisdictional problems associated with the exercise of crime on the internet – known as “cybercrime.” Are there new types of crime unique to the internet? What happens when a crime is committed through the internet, but the perpetrator is located in a different territorial jurisdiction than the victim? Cybercrime is typically broken down into two distinct realms: old crimes, such as fraud, child pornography, and theft (including digital “piracy”), which have been adapted to the new possibilities offered by the emergence of the e-economy (Brenner 2001); and new crimes that are unique to the internet, such as phishing attacks, spam, or the use of malware and distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS), which would not have emerged without it (Brenner 2005; Wall 2005). In both cases jurisdictions with poorly functioning or nonexistent laws are used to hide otherwise criminal activities out of the reach of authorities in jurisdictions where such activities are clearly criminalized. What Michael Froomkin characterized as “regulatory arbitrage” allows cybercriminals to exploit the lowest state denominators as safe harbors, electronically moving to other jurisdictions when the net tightens or laws are progressively harmonized (Froomkin 1997). Indeed, the very concept of jurisdiction itself is confused in the internet. Brenner and Koops elaborate:
Acts on the Internet that are legal in the state where they are initiated may be illegal in other states, even though the act is not particularly targeted at that single state. Jurisdiction conflicts abound, both negative (no state claims jurisdiction) and positive (several states claim jurisdiction at the same time). Above all, it is unclear just what constitutes jurisdiction: is it the place of the act, the country of residence of the perpetrator, the location of the effect, or the nationality of the owner of the computer that is under attack? Or all of these at once?
(Brenner and Koops 2004)
The Council of Europe’s (COE) Convention on Cybercrime is the first international treaty on cybercrime, and its far-reaching provisions have become the focus of some scholarly attention, particularly among international legal scholars. Cangemi (2004) provides an overview from an official COE perspective, while other articles provide critical assessments of the treaty and its possible consequences. Weber (2003) analyzes the treaty’s possible impact on US domestic law. Aldeco (2002) argues the treaty undermines privacy, and urges the United States not to endorse it in its current form. Young (2004) makes similar arguments from a Canadian perspective. Huey and Rosenberg (2004) discuss how the treaty may affect police services and relationships among police across borders.
Regrettably, most of the cybercrime literature outlined above is found in specialized international legal journals, and not in the mainstream IR journals. This is unfortunate because the issues posed by cybercrime, both in execution and policing, are profoundly interesting for state sovereignty and international relations. Incidences of cybercrime are on the rise, in some instances fueled by states outsourcing to private actors and criminal organizations. Meanwhile, law enforcement cooperation across borders, although in its embryonic stages, raises interesting prospects for international policing and state sovereignty that have yet to be tackled by IR theorists.
The internet has evolved from a curious virtual appendage to core infrastructure of society, economics, and politics around the world. For example, there are now more than 4 billion mobile phones in the world, most of which connect to the internet in some way. As societies have become more dependent on the internet, security concerns have become paramount. However, there are many political questions around securing the internet that have been picked up by scholars and will have an enormous impact on cyberspace governance. Early treatments by Saco (1999) and Deibert (2002) discuss political discourses surrounding internet security and note that securing cyberspace is not simply a technical matter but has inherent political consequences as well. These treatments have been picked up and expanded upon by theorists inspired by the Copenhagen School of International Relations, notably by Myriam Dunn Cavelty (Dunn Cavelty 2008).
The vast majority of scholarship around internet security focuses on the theoretical and political implications of defensive measures aimed at protecting critical infrastructures from outside threats. Others look at more “offensive” capabilities unleashed by or connected to the internet. There are numerous policy contributions that examine the “threats” raised by the internet, with the assembled work of Arquilla and Ronfeldt essential reading (Arquilla et al. 1996; 1999). However, the bulk of it is policy-oriented and does not engage with the wider IR theory community. A number of scholars have examined the relationships between the internet and insurgencies, militants and extremists, including Dartnell (2006), Denning (2001), and Rohozinski (2004). James Der Derian’s corpus of post-structural inspired work examines the grammar of virtuality, paying particular attention to the connections between the defense and entertainment industries – or what he dubs the Military-Industrial Media Entertainment Complex (Der Derian 2003). One of the more undeveloped areas of internet security concerns the exercise of power in cyberspace. While having a close affinity to Joseph Nye’s notions of soft power (Nye and Owens 1996), and Rosecrance’s notion of the virtual state (Rosecrance 1999), and obvious connections to the importance of “ideas” in world politics (Goldstein and Keohane 1993), how power in cyberspace is exercised has not received sustained treatment by IR scholars to date.
Surveillance and Privacy
A corollary of the fact that society, economics, and politics are deeply embedded in internet communications is the extension of surveillance and the concomitant loss of privacy. Individuals and organizations leave digital traces that can be mined, fused, and analyzed using advanced technologies, and these digital traces flow through networks that span multiple political jurisdictions. However, the vast majority of scholarship on surveillance and privacy falls outside of the IR field, and has been undertaken by comparative public policy scientists and sociologists who concentrate on domestic politics, mostly in the North American and European contexts (Der Derian 1990; Lyon 1994; Boyle 1997; Deibert 2003). Most extant work is on the policy or investigative level. IR theorists have analyzed regimes related to areas of privacy, encryption, and data protection. Bessette and Haufler question why there is no international regime on information privacy and encryption (Bessette and Haufler 2001), while Kobrin (2004) and Farrell (2003) examine the Safe Habor Agreement between the United States and the European Union on data protection. Newman explores the origins of the European Union’s data privacy directive and highlights the critical role of transgovernmental actors as policy entrepreneurs (Newman 2008). But overall, a major gap in IR scholarship exists and scholars have yet to tackle the international theoretical issues related to surveillance, privacy, and internet governance.
Governance of the Internet’s Constitutive and Architectural Features
The internet is a unique domain insofar as it is a technological artifact sustained and influenced by human interaction. The ingenuity of users at edge points of the network, in other words, can thus have system-wide effects. Internet governance cannot be understood, therefore, without recognizing the ways in which the technologies and protocols of the internet itself facilitate and constrain what can be communicated through it. The latter notion has obvious connections to medium theory (outlined previously) but has been famously updated by Lawrence Lessig’s now classic work Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (Lessig 1999). In that work, which was primarily oriented towards the US legislative context, Lessig argues that computer code shapes communications in ways that are similar to law. Lessig’s main concern is that intellectual property protection mechanisms built directly into software and hardware will have a stifling effect on free speech online. The book has been enormously influential across a number of disciplines, although only having marginal impact in IR theory.
Two related branches of inquiry to Lessig’s pioneering work are those dealing with open source software, and those dealing with network neutrality. Open source software development raises a number of vital issues for internet governance, in particular challenges to intellectual property rights regimes, development, and reputation issues among networked communities of developers. The concept has also been increasingly extended and applied as a metaphor for new modes of civic social organization and opening up new avenues of networking and ingenuity (Weber 2004; Benkler 2006). The topic is thus widely discussed outside of the IR discipline, but only infrequently within. One of the few to do so is Christopher May who sees the concept of open source as a “counter-hegemonic” challenge to prevailing capitalist modes of production, and also as a means for developing countries to challenge the global economic order (May 2008). On the other side of the coin, some scholars have examined the ways in which that status quo is entrenched internationally, to the detriment of alternative modes of production. For example, Shadlen, Schrank, and Kurtz analyzed the ways in which transnational actors, and the United States, working through international institutions are able to extend and entrench intellectual property rights in domestic legal environments worldwide (Shadlen, Schrank, and Kurtz 2005).
One of the core debates about governance of the internet architecture concerns the idea of network neutrality. One of the leading proponents of network neutrality is Tim Wu. His seminal 2003 paper, “Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination,” is one of the most often cited pro-network neutrality texts. Wu defines network neutrality in the following way: “Network neutrality is best defined as a network design principle. The idea is that a maximally useful public information network aspires to treat all content, sites, and platforms equally” (Wu 2003).
Other notable proponents include van Schewick (2007) who offers an economic framework for network neutrality, and Lemley and Lessig (2001) who contend that the underlying design principle of cyberspace must be protected in law. Vocal opponents of network neutrality regulation include Yoo (Yoo 2005; 2006) who argues that network neutrality regulations would be ineffective and could hamper innovation and investment. He argues that communications policy should focus on the last mile, and proposes an alternative “network diversity” model. The majority of the network neutrality literature is set in a US domestic politics context (although there are a small number of European studies). A notable exception is Mueller (2007), who argues that network neutrality is a globally applicable principle that can guide an emerging internet governance regime. Here again, as in other areas, a vital and complex topic concerning the relationship between the constitutive principles and architectural design protocols of the internet and governance awaits examination by IR scholars.
Future Directions for Research and Policy
One might surmise that the field of internet governance, though disparate and fragmented, will likely coalesce as the imperatives of managing global communications grow ever more intense. The internet is here to stay, but it faces many challenges both on a policy and scholarly level. We lay out what we feel are several of the most important of them for IR scholarship.
Towards a Regime for Internet Governance?
As reflected in this article, there is not a single regime for internet governance inasmuch as there are several multiple and overlapping governance domains – what Dutton refers to as the “mosaic” of internet governance (Dutton and Peltu 2007). At the same time, there is a great deal of angst and criticism around some of the existing forums of internet governance, including resistance to ICANN and a deflationary mood around the IGF. Although some might prefer to see consolidation around a single regime with a single global governing body, this seems highly unlikely in the near future and perhaps even undesirable. How the existing multistakeholder, multi-domain environment of internet governance will evolve into the future is exceptionally important from both a policy and a scholarly perspective. Questions of the relationship between private actors and public authorities loom large in this regard, as does the balance to be struck between principles of sovereignty, privacy, liberty, and security.
Cyberspace Arms Control
The issues around securing the internet, once confined to identifying and protecting critical infrastructures, have now become much wider, aggressive, and threatening to core values associated with the internet, such as freedom of speech and access to information. Dozens of government militaries and many nonstate actors now speak openly about fighting and winning wars in cyberspace. There is a very active “arms race” on the internet, with computer network attacks, viruses, and other malware being the primary weapons. Politically motivated attacks on computer infrastructures, web defacements, and computer-based espionage are now all common features of the world political landscape. How to rein in and control these competitive dynamics without at the same time fundamentally altering the character of cyberspace will be one of the most pressing issues in coming years.
Methodologies for Internet Forensics
Overall, the internet is a relatively new and poorly theorized domain for international relations scholars and there are many gaps of inquiry. Some of the reasons for this immaturity may reflect the relative novelty of the topic, but some are disciplinary and methodological. Investigating power relations in cyberspace may require a new framework for social science research that incorporates an interdisciplinary approach to data gathering, visualization, and analysis. There are several emerging techniques and methods that aid in the mining, fusion, and visualization of complex data sets derived from the interrogation of technical networks that could be used by IR theorists to establish an evidence base from which to argue theoretical claims. These tools and techniques are drawn from a number of scholarly disciplines and operational practices that include: engineering, computer science, sociology, geography, criminology, risk management, fraud detection, network administration, signals, and human intelligence.
The authors are grateful to Masashi Nishihata and Katherine Reilly for research assistance.
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Links to Digital Materials
Citizen Lab. At http:/citizenlab.org, accessed April 9, 2009. The Citizen Lab is an interdisciplinary laboratory based at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada. Its mission is to undertake advanced research and engage in development that monitors, analyzes, and impacts the exercise of political power in cyberspace.
Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI). At http:/fosi.org, accessed April 9, 2009. The FOSI is an international nonprofit organization, which is registered as a charity in both the US and the UK. It was founded in 2007 by Stephen Balkam, and subsumed the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA), which Balkam had previously established in 1994. The stated mission of FOSI is to make the internet safer for children and families by identifying and promoting best practice tools and methods for online safety that also respect free expression. FOSI members include major corporations such as AOL, AT&T, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo! FOSI participates in World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) initiatives and interacts with partners from industry and government.
Global Network Initiative (GNI) At http:/globalnetworkinitiative.org, accessed April 9, 2009. GNI is a multistakeholder group of corporations, civil society organizations, academics, and investors who are actively negotiating guidelines for the protection of freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT sector. The initiative was launched in 2008 and includes industry leaders such as Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo! The participating members voluntarily agree to adopt the set of principles developed by the GNI.
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). At http:/icann.org, accessed April 9, 2009. ICANN is a nonprofit corporation based in Marina Del Rey, California. It was created in 1998 and made responsible for managing the assignment of domain names and Internet Protocol addresses. Specific activities of ICANN include Internet Protocol address space allocation, protocol identifier assignment, generic and country code top-level domain name management, and root server system management.
ICANN Watch. At http:/icannwatch.org, accessed April 9, 2009. ICANN Watch is a collaborative academic effort that provides a forum for news, critical analysis and discussion on the activities of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Its founding members were notable internet governance scholars: David Post, Michael Froomkin, and David Farber.
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). At http:/www.ietf.org, accessed April 9, 2009. The IETF is an international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers working to develop and promote internet standards. The IETF works closely with the W3C and ISO/IEC on issues related to standards of the internet protocol suite TCP/IP. Membership is open to the public with no formal entry requirements.
Internet Governance Forum (IGF). At http:/intgovforum.org, accessed April 9, 2009. IGF is a forum for multistakeholder policy dialogue related to issues of internet governance that seeks to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability, and development of the internet. The United Nations Secretary-General established the IGF in July 2006.
Internet Governance Project (IGP). At http:/internetgovernance.org, accessed April 9, 2009. IGP is a group of academics working in the fields of global governance and internet policy. The stated goals of the IGP are to: (1) inform and shape internet public policy choices by providing independent analysis and timely recommendations; (2) identify and analyze new possibilities for improving global governance institution; (3) develop policy positions guided by the values of globalism and democratic governance. The IGN is active in international institutions including the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF).
Internet Society. At http:/isoc.org, accessed April 9, 2009. The Internet Society is a nonprofit organization founded in 1992 with the objective of providing leadership in internet-related standards, education, and policy. It is the organizational home for internet infrastructure standards such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Internet Architecture Board (IAB). Its membership consists of 80 organizations and 28,000 individuals from around the world.
International Telecommunication Union (ITU). At http:/itu.int, accessed April 9, 2009. ITU was originally founded in 1865 as the International Telegraph Union and tasked with standardizing and regulating international radio-frequency spectrum and telecommunications. It is now the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technology issues, and is active in a number of sectors including international radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbit resource management, industry standardization, and the improvement of telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world. The ITU is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Its membership includes 191 member states and 700 sector members and associates.
Information Warfare Monitor (IWM). At http:/infowar-monitor.net, accessed April 9, 2009. The Informational Warfare Monitor is an independent research effort tracking the emergence of cyberspace as a strategic domain. The IWF’s mission is to build and broaden the evidence base available to scholars, policy makers and the general public. It is a public–private institution run between the SecDev Group, an operational think tank based in Ottawa (Canada), and the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto.
OpenNet Initiative (ONI). At http:/opennet.net, accessed April 9, 2009. ONI is a collaborative partnership of four leading academic institutions: the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto; Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; the Advanced Network Research Group at the Cambridge Security Programme, University of Cambridge; and the Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University. Its aim is to investigate, expose, and analyze internet filtering and surveillance practices in a credible and nonpartisan fashion.
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). At http:/w3.org, accessed April 9, 2009. The World Wide Web Consortium is an international consortium that seeks to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure long-term growth for the Web. This goal is primarily pursued through the creation of web standards and guidelines. Since 1994, the W3C has published 100 standard recommendations for the Web. In addition, the W3C engages in education and outreach, develops software, and functions as an open forum for discussion on the Web. The W3C was founded in 1994, and has been directed by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, since that time.