An Inter-Nation-Al Internet: China's Contribution to Global Internet Governance?
Herold, David Kurt (2011) An Inter-Nation-Al Internet: China's Contribution to Global Internet Governance? pp. 1-19. In: Proceedings of the A DECADE IN INTERNET TIME: OII SYMPOSIUM ON THE DYNAMICS OF THE INTERNET AND SOCIETY, 21 - 24 September 2011, University of Oxford.
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The first decade of the 21st century saw the Internet grow exponentially, and enter 'mainstream' culture, which brought the increased attention of the 'general public', the media, and government authorities. This meant a growth of awareness for the 'dark side' of the Internet, e.g. its use in the pursuit of criminal, or socially unacceptable activities, and a resultant drive by governments to create legal frameworks to tame the wilderness of Cyberspace. Legislatives, and judiciaries of various countries have acted to curb online excesses, and in the process they have begun to shape the future of the Internet as a whole. Authorities in the United States decided to ban online gambling and issued warrants for the arrest of non-US citizens, not resident in the USA French court forced Yahoo to stop displaying Nazi memorabilia on auction sites accessible in France. UK laws require organisations to monitor all electronic communication on computers used on their premises. China forced Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo to obey Chinese regulations regarding 'sensitive information', etc. The global Internet has increasingly become a fiction, amid national regulations for the Internet, the citizens of a particular state may access. Most of these developments have been ad-hoc, and largely uncoordinated responses to specific situations and problems. However, the overall effect of these steps has been to change the Internet in ways largely ignored both by the general public. A White Paper on the Internet, published in June 2010 by the Chinese government, offers a perspective on the consequences of these changes in their totality, though, as it outlines the official Chinese stance on the future of the Internet and on the role of national governments in the governance of online spaces, which appears to gather the different national efforts to regulate the Internet into one cohesive system. The Chinese government's White Paper argues that the Internet has become a central, and essential part of a country's socio-economic system, and that therefore the governments of individual countries should be empowered to both safeguard, and control it, in the interest of their national well-being. Once each country's Internet has come under the purview of its government, the global networking of the separate national Internets should be regulated through the application of existing and continuously evolving treaties between nation states, similar to all other national concerns. Instead of a global, unregulated Cyberspace, a regulated, and diverse Internet of Nations would result, in which different countries could promote their own cultures according to their own legal needs and wishes, under the aegis of the United Nations, and not the U.S. controlled ICANN. This presentation will argue that despite U.S. protests against the White Paper, it represents the logical endpoint of previous efforts by governments of different countries, including European and American ones, to regulate and control the Internet. The seductiveness of the Chinese proposals to the governments of nation states, both in the developed, and in the developing world, as well as the increasing status of China on the world stage suggest that the idea of an Internet of Nations should be taken seriously, and should be addressed and scrutinized by Internet scholars and the general public.
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