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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Disclosure and its Discontents: Protecting Privacy in a Time of Surveillance

Colin Agur 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.

In the 1825 farce play Paul Pry, the title character spies on his neighbors by asking third parties for details of their lives and leaving objects (often umbrellas) behind so he has an excuse to return unannounced. His catch-phrase, “I hope I don’t intrude,” is as contrived as his reasons for monitoring his neighbors. In the years following Paul Pry, government efforts to read letters in the post and telegrams sent over the wires eclipsed the threat of a bumbling snoop.[i] Today, in the wake of the Snowden disclosures, these concerns seem quaint. With powerful agencies monitoring our electronic communication, ours is a world of frequent and deep intrusions. Nosy neighbors are the least of our worries.

Surveillance was a recurring theme at this year’s Milton Wolf Seminar, held at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna. In formal sessions and social events spread over three days, the participants — an international mix of scholars and practitioners — explored how, in a time of increasing concerns about privacy and surveillance, diplomats, international organizations, the private sector, civil society, and the press can influence internet governance. The Snowden surveillance disclosures figured prominently in discussions about the capacities and…

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Will New Telecom Law Secure Freedoms in Myanmar Connectivity Developments?

Dr. Andrea Calderaro, a researcher at the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom at the European University Institute, outlines the open consultation on Myanmar’s draft telecom law.

In the midst of Myanmar’s current period of dramatic reforms, developing a national connectivity plan is a key priority on the government’s agenda. As illustrated in my previous discussion about ongoing connectivity building in Myanmar (see Digitalizing Myanmar: Connectivity Developments in Political Transitions), in order to safeguard citizens’ freedoms and secure the telecom infrastructure development from political uncertainty, the government must first set rules for this connectivity plan and frame its policy implementations. The design and release of the country’s telecom law provides an important opportunity to better understand the credibility of Myanmar’s ongoing reform process and is a key step forward for connectivity development in the country.

In accordance with one of the main “best practices” in telecom reform, the Myanmar government launched an open consultation in order to gather recommendations and feedback on the draft version of the law before its final release. This consultation invited multiple stakeholders to contribute through a public, transparent, and open process. The draft law was made available online in English for an international public consultation from November 4th to December 2nd 2013. As a result, 21 different stakeholders, including international telecom hardware supply…

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From ‘Chinanet’ to ‘Internet Sovereignty’: Historical Development of China’s Internet Policy

Leshuo Dong is a Ph.D. candidate specializing in international communication at the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University in China. She is currently working with CGCS’s Internet Policy Observatory (IPO) conducting research on Chinese internet foreign policy.

At the end of 2013, with over half a billion people connected online, China boasted the world’s largest online population and became one of the most prominent global Internet actors. The past two decades witnessed not only China’s rise as a great power in Internet infrastructure and technology, breeding a booming digital industry, but also the country’s establishment and development of the most sophisticated information control system.

Chinese Internet use began in 1987, but full Internet service connecting China with the world was not provided until 1994 (Liu, 2012). Exponential increases in Internet usage since then have driven Internet regulation through multiple government entities. Before analyzing the specific discourse the Chinese government uses to frame the Internet, it is necessary to review the historical development of China’s Internet policies. This development, which will be discussed in seven phases, reveals the evolution and rationales underlying China’s Internet policy…

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