Internet Governance infrastructure

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In an Era in which technology prevails internet is one of the most important reason for it. In a world that before several years’ people had to travel miles on foot to buy their needs now it can be done by a single click. In this last 20 years Internet has become part of our lives like most of the things invaded in the past years. Internet has currently about 30% users of the world populations which is about two billions. In only a few years, the internet brought revolution in trade, education, communication and exchange. Also unlike all other inventions Internet has removed borders across the globe; create new international market, new leisure activities and new jobs opportunities making it unique. Even if not many years pass since its creation it has been a main issue in almost all countries in the way in which it should be regulate. Nations all around the globe implement new regulations in order for all these privileges to be safe and legal. Internet governance has become one of the biggest issues we currently have on the planet since its main object is to implement regulations that will not just stop the illegal activity but also not to stop the internet develop. Base on this today there several ways that internet can be regulate these ways can be classified as models, since each model consist of different institutions.

Firstly we should take into account what is internet governance; the definition was given by a working group, World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)  the definition was given after taking to account serious proposals, analysis and criteria such as adequate, generalizable, descriptive, concise and process-oriented.[1] The WSIS came up with the following definition on Internet governance:

“Internet governance is 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 programs that shape the evolution and use of the Internet” [2]

This definition can be consider a working one since it involves Governments, the private sector and civil society in the mechanisms of Internet governance and therefore issues that come along can be solve in varies ways.

However even if the definition is considered a working one there are stills many things that does not cover all of the existing aspects of global digital developments.  Many authors argue that instead of the word internet, information should be used so that will include things other than the internet domain such as mobile telephony. Also the word governance can be quite misleading since it’s a synonymous to the word government and many national delegations had this initial understanding, leading to the interpretation that Internet governance should be the business of governments and consequently addressed at inter-governmental level with the limited participation of other, mainly non state actors.[3]

There are several ways that internet is currently govern but whether this current ways of govern actually work and make internet safer or whether they need better development is something that it will be discuss bellow. In this assignment we will focus on one of the most important layers of the internet, which is the Physical Infrastructure layer. The physical layer includes the copper and optical fibre cables, is the layer that carries data around the world and to the users computers. This layer can be considered the most important one since one change on this layer will affect all layers since it’s considered the root of the net. This still growing layer is already subject to many regulations on numerous fronts and from even more numerous government units. Many argue that internet can be consider the new Wild West because of the increase numbers of cybercrimes that take place, but can this approach be right? Internet has now begun to look more like a more control place, since there many organizations and laws involved. In order to have a more clear view on how the infrastructure layer is regulate we need to look on each model differently. There several models in which the internet is regulate and this can be considered:

a)    The model of transnational institutions and international organizations

b)    The code model

c)    The model of national governments and law

d)    The self-regulation model

e)    The model of market regulation and economics[4]

Taking into account the first model, the model of transnational institutions and international organizations the idea behind this model is since, the internet is an independent international realm it should be out of the control of any national government and it should be govern by transnational institutions[5].  Since infrastructure involves fibers and wires traditionally international telecommunications were coordinate by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) which was developed to elaborate rules between national operators[6]. The current situation is that ITU is the main regulate body for telecommunications. ICANN is also internet governance institution and it’s responsible to manage the internet infrastructure, which consist of Internet protocol addresses, domain names and root servers. Furthermore UN has taken actions with WSIS The world summit on the information Society, which is one of the most ambitious international undertakings to resolve issues regarding to internet governance. The WSIS was a series of international conferences for governments, businesses and civil society, developed and organized by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) under the aegis of the United Nations.[7]

The main issue behind organizations like ICANN is that it’s not an international organization created by treaties, unlike the ITU. The ICANN structure is a mix of national and community-based control Instead of a combination of international and community-based governance and this is because ICANN is based in California which is subject to state and federal laws. And at the same time, ICANN enjoys great latitude in its internal decision-making processes, and government oversight as spelled out in ICANN’s agreement with the Department of Commerce, is relatively minimal[8]. Also it has the power to create procedures in order to execute its role without having to ask the government for formal agreement. And it can be seen from here that the structure of this body and the way it factions retains a very substantial amount of self-governance[9]. Despite its structure ICANN remains a non-profit organization and it can be considered as a firm in economic terms. Furthermore the bylaws of ICANN can ensure operational stability, security and global interoperability of the internet[10].

Bygrave view is that ICANN or ITU can serve as a case study model of transnational institution since it has an organizational structure that is almost baroque in its complexity and the pressure for an international organization at the current date is getting bigger.[11] The model of international organizations was never created as an important authority in respect of internet governance. UN organizations like the ITU are mostly interesting on internet policies like the allowance of non-roman characters in order for the domains to be internationalize. Today the role of this model has been limited to input and most importantly it has not included a formal authority.[12]

In respect to formal authority this model can serve as structure for the creation of a completely new international multi factional body that will govern the internet. Since the current body lacks the authority to interfere more with internet matters. The need for a new international organization which will replace the current bodies that currently exists like the ICANN is big. The new body must related to the idea that internet has no boundaries and it‘s outside the control of any nation. Also the new body must build on the idea that Internet governance requires institutional structures that cross national boundaries and it’s not monitor by a single nation like the case of ICANN that its monitor by the US government but if that’s the case then how can any country follow and non-government body. Moreover the new body must have more involvement on internet governance in general and not only with domain names unlike ICANN.

The second model to consider when it comes to internet regulation is the code model. The code is the software and hardware behind the Internet that make it faction. Therefore everything that we see in the internet runs behind a code. Infrastructure code has seen very few changes since its function day and that is one of the reasons that internet develops the way it does. We have seen over the years from mIRC, Kazaa to Facebook and eBay. The core idea behind this model is regulate technology with technology. When this code was developed security was never in mind and that is probably one of the reasons that internet has so many security issues. The initial goal of the internet code structure was to create a network of networks by interconnecting various computers terms. In order for this to achieve TCP/IP was designed to be software only protocol, independent of any particular computers and network hardware. This TCP/IP is the code. It’s the code that determines the internet structure[13]. Therefore code can consider the most important institution of internet governance.

However even if the code never had any fundamental changes when there is need it can be change. A change that took place in the infrastructure code was the cookies in 1994 when people that build the infrastructure start thinking ways to improve the internet in order for commerce to happen. And they came with the idea of cookies, cookies deposit small amount of data on computer when a server is accessed, by this way the server recognizes when a server is accessed[14]. Even if this is just a small change the effects that cookies have are enormous since something like that can violate privacy rights even if cookies are not something special and are just use to track. Therefore it can be seen from here that code changes have effect on human rights

Lawrence Lessing in his book “Code is Law” identified the relationship of technology and policy. He identified that by the current way that internet is currently grows at the end it will probably govern by a software code instead of laws. Therefore some legislative factions that are parliament and government issues will end up taken over by computers programmers and technical developers, through a combination of software and technical solutions that are more likely to affect life in increasingly Internet based societies[15]. In his view code has effects on human behavior because internet architecture is like the architecture of the building and cities, as the architecture of the buildings enable and encourage people to move and congregate in certain ways, the internet will have the same effect if its structure changes.

 

This approach can easily work on the content layer rather than infrastructure since changes at infrastructure is way hard to be archived as seen above. Organizations like Google have already implemented this kind of code to mostly control copyright rights by adding on their YouTube website a code that will not allow you to upload or listen to any music that infringes copyright by simple checking the ID of what you upload before. This code or a similar one can easily implement too many other websites to avoid infringing copyrights.

In the physical infrastructure layer changes that can take place may affect a) video limits, limit the amount people use to stream videos, b) server restrictions, c) filtering our packages including spam, pornography and shared files, d) restrictions on home networks and e) filtering- filtering out packages including spam, pornography and shared files.[16] These examples where given by Saltzer and Lessig to indicate the controls that can be apply to the physical infrastructure.[17]

As it can be seen code can have great effects on the way internet functions the issue with this model is that changes here will have a great effect on internet structure and as Lessig supports this will have effect on human behavior since as we seen over the years changes on buildings architectures etc. change human behavior and the same will apply to the internet. Also in some cases as seen above with cookies, code can sometimes violate some of the most fundamental rights, the Human Rights.

 

The third model is based on national governments and law. This is one of the most important models since when there is an issue on the internet this model should be the first to be look. This model is based on the idea that internet should be regulated like the most of the human activities by legislation. As seen above a code change can change the whole internet structure such changes will have effect on national laws though since each legal system is different and what is legal in one county may be illegal in another country and therefore counties may come in conflict.

Laws can apply in different situation on the net such as publications on the web like in blogs are subjects to defamation. When contracts are made on the web they can considered enforceable. Frauds that take place on the net are subject to criminal sanction. Also file sharing like music or movies that involve copyrights are subject to criminal and civil liability.

Even if most countries have not attempted to change the current legislation structure of internet some other has tried. One of these counties is China. In China internet regulations give the Chinese government the upper hand on all internet connection going either in or out of the country. These regulations appoint the Ministry of information Industry (MII) as a gatekeeper to the internet and access to the internet by the ISPs is restricted to handful of channels, the national backbones. Under the Computers information Network and Internet Security, Protection and Management regulation access to materials such as (a) subversive of state power or the socialist system; (b) damaging to national unity; (c) inciting discrimination between nationalities; (d) disturbing to social order; (e) propagating feudal superstition; (f) related to pornography, gambling, or violence; (g) insulting or libelous; and (h) violating the Constitution or other laws is prohibited[18]. Blocking websites that include such content is assigned to the ISPs, with the public security Bureau (PSB) sending the list of prohibited websites to be block by the ISPs. The ISPs under the law are obligated to follow directions from the PSB since it’s required by law. And because China government has the monopoly over the physical infrastructure all ISPs have to be licensed and follow the government orders. However this way of regulation has its own fails like in the case of peer-to-peer applications connected to anonymous proxy servers out of China. Even if the system has some failures China has managed to enforce to a level the blocking of illegal content[19].

This kind of regulation technique can be negative in respect to the code model since such technique may interfere with the way that internet currently faction since China regulation is mostly a national regulation with worldwide effects such as slower browsing since data travels through packets worldwide and blocking it make it slower.

Furthermore this attempt to regulate the internet can considered very costly since many of the block content will be desirable to millions users of China and also Chinese customers will affect the worldwide market since those websites will never visited by a Chinese. There several other countries that used this extreme ways of governance such as Saudi Arabia that blocks all content with anything contrary to the state or its system, news damaging to the Saudi Arabian armed forces, anything damaging to the dignity of heads of states, any false information ascribed to state officials, subversive ideas, and slanderous or libelous material.[20]

This model has its own difficulties, in order to be the main model of governance one of its difficulties is that counties can change the internet regulation structure since change will affect the other countries too.

Another example of the national law model is the Yahoo case. This was a case in French courts that illustrated the issues of multiple legislations. In this case there was a breach of French Law on Nazi materials, which prohibited the exhibition and the sale of such objects. The Yahoo auction site included this kind of materials. The Yahoo website was hosted in the USA where the exhibition and sale of these items was and still is legal. This conflict between French and American legislation shows the difficulties that the national regulation have. The court case was solved though the use of technical solution, by filtering the IP location and disallow access to French citizens.  However this technique of regulation had two issues. Firstly is that only the 70% of France was not allowed access, it can be seen from here that IP blocking is not the solution since any territorial blocking based on IP Addresses is inherently over-inclusive and under-inclusive.[21] The second issue that arise from here is that IP address basic blocking can be easily bypass by using anonymous proxy, something that is even offer by million websites and thousands of software. With this technology users connect to a site through another server that hides the true IP of the user. Therefore it can be seen for this that this regulation has not achieved much. French citizens can still access this kind of material if they need. There is nothing that can really stop them the IP basic blocking has no effect.

The question arising from this model is whether national and government laws can tackle the regulation issue. National laws do work in most cases particularly when the parties involved are from the same physical territory of a particular nation state. The problem with this model is when a national law comes in conflict with another national law from another country and therefore this model cannot consider providing a complete solution of governance. Another clear example of the failure of this law is when it come to warez[22] downloads most of the countries have laws that prevent these downloads but in few other countries this kind of downloads can be legal like in Iran[23], therefore if other countries have the laws on this someone can easily buy host from Iran and be legal. This is a clear example of the failure of national laws. What actually needed here is new set of Laws that will bind all countries by using national laws and create equivalent rules at a global level.

 

The fourth model is based on self-regulation; the idea behind this model is keeping the state out. The US government’s “White Paper on Internet Governance (1998)” proposes self-regulation as the preferred regulatory mechanism for the internet. Self-regulation is based on an intentional organized approach with rules that are usually codified in codes of practice or good conduct.[24] Self-regulation is currently used in many countries, where ISPs use it as a method of imposing certain standards of behavior and at the end even preventing countries to interference in their activities.

It was recognized that some form of control and management would be required to deal with increasingly evident challenges such as information pollution, fraud, and the requirements of standardization. Many experts and users therefore called for a form of regulation in which private and other entities would, in essence, police themselves.[25] This model was consider popular back in the 1990s today this model is unlikely to work since if the state do not take part none can ensure civil liberties and public values.  The need of the state to take part was recognize by WSIS, which in its Declaration of Principles states that: “Policy authority for Internet-related public policy issues is the sovereign right of States. They have rights and responsibilities for international Internet-related public policy issues.”[26] Therefore it is clear that this model also will not work and it will probably end up bringing chaos and anarchy on the web. This is like using the prisoners to guard the prison.[27] Even though this model may not work well in most of the cases, sometimes this model brings harmonization when there is conflict between national laws.

 

Another model to consider is the model of market regulation and economics is based on the idea that rather than view Internet governance as a regulatory problem, the model attempts to redescribe the underlying phenomena in economic terms, as markets for products and services[28]. This body does not base on traditional laws and it will probably have its own failures. However this model is one of the main reasons that internet was promoted and grown over the last 15 years

 

Taking into account all models it can be seen how difficult is for any model to regulate the net and of course none of the models can provide all the solutions for internet governance. However all models are still under development, and what can be clearly see here is that all models have developed and still developing. Whether a government can regulate the net is something that was discussed in the government model government will always be needed in order to regulate the net when it comes to national level. At national level legislation of each country works almost perfectly and therefore that’s why this model should always applied first when there is a case between people that are from the same country. Therefore it can be said that government cannot be let out of Internet governance since something like that is more likely to bring chaos since none will take internet governance serious if there is no governance control at all it will end up where it started, back in the 1990 where you could pretty much find any illegal content that’s is currently banned.

 

It’s well clear that internet needs more ways to be regulated but we should not forget the core idea behind the internet that is not only to be regulated but also let to develop. So solutions that may come need to have this in mind and in some cases is better to let internet get its own way. Self-regulation may considered an extreme measure but sometimes it has its own advantages like that the fact that internet will never facilitate legal control of content along national lines by any national or national regulation.[29]

We have seen examples of national control like in the case of China but what will happen if all countries take the extreme example of China and start blocking websites round the world, this would probably bring a new economy crisis with even bigger effects that the one we currently have. Also many reported that they cannot sent or receive mail from china because of the many IP ranges banned. This kind of control is more likely to make internet something more national, like reading your national newspaper or watching your national news.

Furthermore taking into account the model on international organizations and applying it to infrastructure the difficulties of the current situations are obvious. As said above since internet is a network of networks and all networks have to connect together in order for the global network to faction. In telecommunications networks, connection is regulated at the national level by state authorities and in an international level by principles and agreements that are some supervised by the ITU. Many countries views are that organization such as ITU should govern the internet but other countries view is that a new treaty based organization should be created. Furthermore in The EU governments argue that ICANN should retain its technical function while a new international public body should have the policy supervision function. Countries like the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand argued that ICANN has nothing to change[30]. It is obvious that are many different views and each country thinks what suits for it best. Probably a new international organization can solve this if the countries that currently argued between them create a new multifunctional organization that will favor mostly all the countries if this can ever achieved.

Also to be noted is that all models have the space for improvement none of the models cannot be change or modified one example is national regulations to become more sensitive to the value of retaining the Internets architecture

And finally is quite obvious that all models are needed to regulate the internet, each model it is unique and has its own unique function as a result all models required for an optimal system of governance nor the government or national laws can do it on their own. International organizations and regulations are needed in order for a working solution downwards governance.

 

In conclusion it can be said that all current  internet governance need to be improve, most of the regulations are old and outdated internet develops faster than any other thing on the planet. Retaining some old ways of internet governance it is not taking us forward.  What actually needs to be done is reform some completely new ways of regulating the internet like an International law binding all countries or an independent international organization in which all nations take part in the creation of it. However even if there are still some regulating issues over the years we have seen great improvement on regulating the net. Some methods will fail other will succeed there is nothing similar to the internet over the years that anyone can take it structure and make it similar. Is like building a new world from start. Legislations that currently exceed in the real world took years to structure and form. Overall the current internet governance it can be said that it has the structure to develop and become even safer in the following years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Textbooks:

  • Kurbalija, A. (2010) An introduction to internet Governance, 4th Edition, Diplo Foundation
  • Lessig L. (2006) CODE Version 2.0, Basic Books

 

  • Kapur, A. (2005) Internet Governance: A Primer, UNDP
  • Bygrave, L. and Bing, J. (2009) Internet Governance: Infrastructure and Institutions, Oxford
  • Kurbalija, A and Gelbstein E. (2005) Internet Governance Issues, Actors and Divides, Diplo Foundation
  • Mayer-Schönberger, V. The shape of Governance: Analyzing the World of Internet Regulation
  • Murray, A. (2007) The regulation of Cyberspace: Control in the Online Environment, Routledge-Cavendish
  • Vinton G. (2003) Who rules the Net? Internet Governance and Jurisdiction, Cato Institute

Web:

 


[1]WGIG (2005) http://www.wgig.org/docs/WGIGREPORT.pdf, p4

[2] Ibid

[3] Kurbalija, A. (2010) An introduction to internet Governance, 4th Edition, Diplo Foundation p6

[4] Bygrave, L. and Bing, J. (2009) Internet Governance: Infrastructure and Institutions, Oxford p59

[5] Bygrave, L. and Bing, J. (2009) Internet Governance: Infrastructure and Institutions, Oxford p59

[6] Kurbalija, A and Gelbstein E. (2005) Internet Governance Issues, Actors and Divides p34

[7] Bygrave, L. and Bing, J. (2009) Internet Governance: Infrastructure and Institutions, Oxford p213

[8] http://www.icann.org/general/bylaws.htm.

[9] Mayer-Schönberger, V. The shape of Governance: Analyzing the World of Internet Regulation p65

[10] Bygrave, L. and Bing, J. (2009) Internet Governance: Infrastructure and Institutions, Oxford p59

[11] Ibid p60

[12] Ibid p61

[13] Bygrave, L. and Bing, J. (2009) Internet Governance: Infrastructure and Institutions, Oxford  p69

[14] Lessig L. (2006) CODE p48

[15] Kurbalija, A and Gelbstein E. (2005) Internet Governance Issues, Actors and Divides p22

[16] Murray, A. (2007) The regulation of Cyberspace: Control in the Online Environment, Routledge-Cavendish  p82

[17] ibid

[18] http://www.stanford.edu/group/sjeaa/journal1/china1.pdf

[19] Bygrave, L. and Bing, J. (2009) Internet Governance: Infrastructure and Institutions, Oxford p70

[20] Vinton G. (2003) Who rules the Net? Internet Governance and Jurisdiction p228

[21] Bygrave, L. and Bing, J. (2009) Internet Governance: Infrastructure and Institutions, Oxford p 74

[22] Copyrighted works distributed without fees or royalties, and may be traded, in general violation of copyright law

[23] Copyright In Iran, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran_and_copyright_issues

[24] Bygrave, L. and Bing, J. (2009) Internet Governance: Infrastructure and Institutions, Oxford p83

[25] Kapur, A.(2005) Internet Governance: A Primer p 29

[26] Building the Information Society: a global challenge in the new Millennium,  http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs/geneva/official/dop.html

[27] Mayer-Schönberger, V. The shape of Governance: Analyzing the World of Internet Regulation

[28] Bygrave, L. and Bing, J. (2009) Internet Governance: Infrastructure and Institutions p75

[29] Bygrave, L. and Bing, J. (2009) Internet Governance: Infrastructure and Institutions, p87

[30] Kurbalija, A. (2010) An introduction to internet Governance, 4th Edition p164

 

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