//CGCS Internet Policy Observatory affiliate Sarah Logan examines the international expansion of China’s search engine Baidu into Vietnam to explore if the relationship between the Chinese state and Chinese internet companies affect those companies’ international expansion. This project adds to studies of the ‘state’ in cyberspace, in this case by studying Chinese internet companies beyond Chinese borders—adding a geopolitical element to existing studies. This project is part of CGCS’s Internet Policy Observatory (IPO).
Remember when cyberspace was borderless? A never-ending, utopian plane which heralded the dawn of a new age of global humanity? These dreams have long been trampled underfoot – most recently by the Snowden revelations, but also the understanding we now have of the way states can manipulate the internet for domestic political goals. Research in the field now focuses on the implications of information technologies—symbolic, economic, and political. This means looking at the way states interact with the web, especially in the pursuit of political goals. Today, scholarly and policy attention focuses on the web as a bordered, sovereign space rather than the ‘placeless’ cyber domain which occupied the minds of early internet researchers.
For several years, China has featured prominently in such research, and the Great Firewall marked the pinnacle of state ambition to control online information access. Such control is exercised under the rubric of ‘internet sovereignty’, so that ‘within Chinese territory the internet is under the jurisdiction of Chinese sovereignty.’ As is well described in the literature, especially in work by Jiang and MacKinnon, this means that the Chinese state manages citizens online by restricting access to certain sites, and controls the flow of online information within its borders in more subtle ways, using the internet as a tool of surveillance, censorship and information shaping. Chinese technology companies are inextricably linked with these practices of internet sovereignty via processes known as ‘networked authoritarianism’. Chinese networked authoritarianism cannot work without the active cooperation of private companies via a system of stringently enforced and wide-ranging intermediary liability.
Given this relationship, what happens when…
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//Daniel R. McCarthy of the University of Melbourne provides his thoughts on the Benchmarking Public Demand report.
In Benchmarking Public Demand: Russia’s Appetite for Internet Control the authors have produced an interesting, insightful, and at times disheartening picture of public attitudes towards Internet freedom in Russia. It is important, as debates over the future shape of the Internet continue, that researchers identify the different attitudes and distinct national conceptions of what the Internet is and should be, moving beyond somewhat stale paradigms of the straightforward authoritarian imposition of censorship on domestic publics and the often problematic paradigm of Internet freedom. To this end, Monroe Price and Gregory Asmolov’s comments in the introduction and Asmolov’s accompanying short article are central in setting out how we can start to think about these complex relationships and processes of opinion formation, placing the quantitative information into a coherent narrative of how public opinion formation takes place and how it matters for Internet governance.
The report also highlights…
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//Annenberg Assistant Professor Victor Pickard discusses the FCC’s February 2015 decision to pass strong net neutrality rules. This article was originally posted on the Huffington Post and can be accessed here.
Last week’s historic decision by the FCC to pass strong net neutrality protections is both closure to a 13-year-long struggle and an opening salvo for battles to come. In one of the most important public interest decisions in American media policy history, the FCC, in a 3-2 party-line vote, reclassified broadband as a common carrier telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act.
What this means is that the FCC now has the regulatory authority to prevent Internet service providers from discriminating against (blocking or slowing down) online content or creating fast and slow lanes based on whether content creators can afford to pay up. This is a big deal, and the excitement is warranted. But potential threats abound.
In the near term, we should expect continued court challenges and efforts from the Republican-led Congress to undercut the FCC’s regulatory authority if not seek outright reversal. We have yet to see the final wording of the ruling, but potential litigants are reportedly lawyering up for judicial review, and AT&T has already announced its intent to sue. Beyond the decision being vacated by a court or Congress, a future reversal from a Republican-led FCC is also possible.
And even preserving net neutrality will not come close to solving our many Internet problems like…
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The Internet Policy Observatory (IPO) is offering funding to both the Annenberg-Oxford Media Policy Summer Institute (June 29-July 10) and the Annenberg and Central European University Summer Program (June 29-July 4). Full scholarships are available for two outstanding applicants who demonstrate through their applications a devotion to internet policy issues in their research or in their work.Priority will be given to applicants from the Global South. For questions about the programs or the IPO scholarships, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to apply for the scholarship.
Questions? Please visit the Annenberg-Oxford FAQ.