Internet Governance: The New “Great Game”

John Laprise, an Assistant Professor in Residence at Northwestern University in Qatar, frames internet governance in the context of a “Great Game,” discussing current “players” and their rolls and success in the game thus far.

During the 19th century at the height of the Pax Britannia, Great Britain vied with Russia to preserve its hold on India. This “Great Game” also involved, to a lesser degree, other European states such as France with their own regional interests. The players sought to involve and enlist local leaders and tribes, working to throw their opponents off balance through misinformation and misdirection while avoiding coming to blows directly (though this was not always successful, as seen in the Crimean War). In the end, Great Britain won the Great Game and preserved the Jewel in the Crown.

Fast forward to the 21st century, where we find ourselves in yet another (arguably) monopolar world with real world unrest in the Ukraine. The United States is playing a new version of the Great Game, striving to preserve a kind of internet supremacy, in the face of competition and criticism from other nation states, through subtlety and finesse in much the same way as Britain sought to maintain its hold on India. For players in geopolitics, understanding the rules of the game and the goals of the other players is crucial. Playing a game without knowing the rules or what winning looks like is frustrating and likely results in loss.  It is not apparent that the players…

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