Making Access Visible: Representations of the Internet

Willow Williamson is one of the eight 2014 Milton Wolf Emerging Scholar Fellows, an accomplished group of doctoral and advanced MA candidates selected to attend the 2014 Milton Wolf Seminar. Their posts highlight the critical themes and on-going debates raised during the 2014 Seminar discussions.

Marshall McLuhan’s often quoted “the Medium is the Message”[i] took on a new resonance for me as I absorbed the discussions from the 2014 Milton Wolf Seminar. What exactly is “the medium” of the internet; and who gets to define what it contains, decide where it is located, and make decisions about information and communication flows? These were some of the questions that participants discussed at this year’s Milton Wolf Seminar on “Foreign Policies of the Internet.” Panelists examined the layers of meaning contained within and represented by the internet, ranging from the physicality of its infrastructure and ownership, to what it represents as an idea, to how these layers affect international communications and relations. Underlying these conversations were the questions: What happens when international norms are in conflict? And, whose voices are heard and represented in determining and negotiating those norms?

Privacy Versus Security

Since 9/11 and the passage of the Patriot Act, ongoing conversation in the United States places privacy in opposition to security. These debates are not new, as evidenced by David Vincent’s historical account of the…

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Walking the Tightrope: Multinational Technology Corporations and Global Internet Governance in the Age of Government Surveillance

Ryan Spagnolo is one of the eight 2014 Milton Wolf Emerging Scholar Fellows, an accomplished group of doctoral and advanced MA candidates selected to attend the 2014 Milton Wolf Seminar. Their posts highlight the critical themes and on-going debates raised during the 2014 Seminar discussions.

As the internet has come of age in the era of globalization, it has brought both significant benefits and new challenges to global communication. The multinational technology companies who provide internet services have had to weigh the benefits, costs, and risks involved in entering the industry. One major risk centers on their relationship with governments. Revelations of extensive government surveillance, and the related movement to “internationalize” and democratize internet governance have introduced the potential for disruptive and perhaps seismic shifts in how the internet operates. Multinational companies are in the process of developing strategies to address these foreign policy challenges and to protect their interests within the current global governance structure.

The theme for this year’s Milton Wolf Seminar was therefore timely. Significant portions of the discussions addressed how transformations occurring in global internet governance will influence corporate responses. The panelists identified three overarching themes as the drivers of the ongoing debates surrounding internet…

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International Law and the Normative Order of the Internet

Dr. Matthias C. Kettemann, LL.M. (Harvard), is postdoctoral fellow at the Cluster of ExcellenceNormative Orders at the University of Frankfurt (Germany) and lecturer at the Institute of International Law and International Relations of the University of Graz (Austria). Recently, he co-authored a book on Freedom of Expression and the Internet (2014)In this post, which is part of a larger research project he pursues, he presents some initial thoughts on how international law is relevant in establishing the normative order of the internet.

Lawyers like order. This is less a personal trait of lawyers than something that law students are trained in. They are made to like order and to think systematically. This is not a bad thing, as systematic thinking is usually to be applauded. However, when new areas of human sociality emerge, and ‘constitution-able’ social orders require regulation, path dependency will strike and the order of the new regime may look very much like the order of old regimes. But if the new regime exhibits novel characteristics – different stakeholder groups, transnational privatized standards-setting processes, and peculiar legitimacy narratives – then lawyers may have a problem. New thinking is required – never more so than with regard to the internet and its governance.

This systemic deficit in legal thinking has to be addressed and overcome in establishing the normative order of the internet. Such an order is necessary because, as Malcolm N. Shaw put it so well, “[i]n the long march of mankind from the cave to the computer a central role has always been played by the idea of law – that order is necessary and chaos inimical to a just and stable existence.” Of course, there is a broad variety of normative gradations between chaos and order.

Two recent developments regarding the normative order of the internet…

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What did Africa Get out of NETmundial Internet Governance Discussions?

Ephraim Percy Kenyanito discusses what Africa gained from the April 23-24th NETmundial meeting in São Paulo, Brazil. This post was originally published on the Access blog on May 9, 2014 and can be found here. This is the second post in Kenyanito’s series that spotlights “African Contributions to Internet Governance Discussions.” Part one can be found here.


NETmundial, the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance concluded recently in São Paulo, Brazil. The meeting’s goal was to develop internet governance principles and propose a roadmap for the further evolution of the internet governance ecosystem. In total, 1,480 participants from all stakeholder groups were physically present at NETmundial, and there were more than 30 hubs around the world (in 97 countries) that facilitated remote participation.


Our previous analysis of African stakeholders’ contributions to the initial NETmundial open submission process found that stakeholders from Africa emphasized human rights and role of governments in matters of internet governance.


NETmundial concluded with the approval of a final statement on internet governance principles. The final text built on contributions from the initial NETmundial open submission process and inputs from the Public Consultation on the Draft Outcome Document on the NETmundial’s website. However, in the process of…

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