Mapping the Internet Terrain

Alexander Klimburg (Research Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School), Philipp Mirtl (Affiliated Researcher, Austrian Institute for International Affairs), and Snezana Gjorgieva (PhD Candidate, University of Vienna) examines the ongoing power shifts between state and non-state actors in Internet governance, presenting some research notes on the multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance. This paper is part of CGCS’s Internet Policy Observatory (IPO).

The rise of the Internet has had a marked effect on how we view political power.[1] Around the turn of the millennium, the nation-state as a political factor seemed to be in retreat, and was described as being “under siege”.[2] Giving individuals instant and affordable access to vast amounts of information, the Internet “has collapsed the world, transcending and blurring political boundaries.”[3] As everyday lives have been perceived as being significantly transformed by the Internet, so, too, were traditional concepts of territoriality and state sovereignty. It was even claimed that “[t]he new technologies encourage noninstitutional, shifting networks over the fixed bureaucratic hierarchies that are the hallmark of the single-voiced sovereign state.”[4]

However, while there is no doubt “that significant deterritorialisation has taken place in human affairs, territory remains a crucial factor for many key aspects of humankind’s social, economic and especially political structures.”[5] In our near future, the pre-eminence of the state will thus…

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Chinese Microblogging Governance: Flaws with September’s Online Rumor Law

Yuanyuan Dong, a lecturer at the School of Languages and Communications Studies at Beijing Jiaotong University, discusses issues with China’s September 2013 legislation which permitted imprisonment for slanderous material on microblogs shared at least 500 times or viewed 5,000 times.

Microblogging has become increasingly popular in China, and the main channel for Chinese netizens to collect and share information. By the end of October 2013, China’s microblogging population reached 530 million people. Realizing microblogging’s enormous social influence, the Chinese government has begun to exert gradual management and supervision of speech on micro-blogging platforms.

On September 9, 2013, building on existing online rumor laws, the Supreme People’s Court of PRC and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate of PRC jointly announced “The Interpretation of Issues about Applicable Laws Dealing with Criminal Cases of Using Information Networks to Slander,” (this legislation shall be henceforth referred to as the Interpretation). The main clause of this Explanation provides supplemental provisions to Article 246 of The Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, which states that:

“Whoever, by violence or other methods, publicly humiliates another person or invent stories to defame him, if the circumstances are serious, shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years, criminal detention, public surveillance or deprivation of political rights.”

In the 2013 Interpretation…

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Finding a Formula for Brazil: Representation and Legitimacy in Internet Governance

The following article is the first of a series of working papers published by the Internet Policy Observatory at CGCS. These working papers explore  global policies of the Internet with a focus on the global south. This article, developed by Milton Mueller from Syracuse University and Ben Wagner from CGCS, looks at the process running up to the Brazilian summit in April 2014, and puts these Internet governance developments into a historical context.

In the summer of 2013, Edward Snowden’s extraordinary leaks about U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance destabilized the foundations of international Internet governance. Speaking at the UN General Assembly on September 24, 2013, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff denounced NSA spying in the strongest terms, and, together with ICANN, started planning conference in Sao Paulo in April 2014 to reinvent Internet governance.

This article analyses these events and tries to make sense of what they might mean for the future of global Internet governance. It begins by looking at how the Brazil-ICANN initiative alters the political alignment of actors in the world. Second, it places these developments into a longer historical context, showing how it echoes recurring attempts to develop legitimacy and principles for Internet governance. Third, it applies…

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Government-Dominated Governance and the Double-Edged Sword

Ran Liu, a graduate student in Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses her most recent research on Internet policy scholarship in China.

In recent years, academia’s interest in the Chinese Internet, especially its potential for promoting social movements, democracy and human rights, has increased. However, when it comes to Internet policy and governance scholarship, Chinese scholars are overshadowed by the English-dominated academic world. Compared to their Western counterparts, articles published in Chinese are found to be more conservative, less theoretical, and less focused on the political consequences of the Internet (Qiu & Bu, 2013; Wei, 2009).

To enrich global narratives of Internet policy with an often-overlooked angle, I recently critically examined and analyzed current scholarship on Internet policy written in Chinese and published in Mainland China. Using a research sample of 226 Internet governance articles developed from the Chinese National Knowledge Institution Database (CNKI), [1] my findings address major questions including: What is the major discourse constructed around Internet policy, and who are the major architects in Chinese scholarship? Is there a debate happening among Chinese scholars as China is an authoritarian regime? Does Chinese scholarship provide a different story from international narratives about Internet?

Overall Chinese academic discourse on Internet governance is highly coherent. Scholarship generally considers the national government the dominant Internet governance player…

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