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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