Internet Regulation and Governance: An International Perspective
Internet Regulation and Governance: An International
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“Whether in China or Chicago, we’re now living in a world where access to information is partly controlled by private corporations, whose wish to “comply with local regulation” may involve many layers of hidden decision-making about what we can see, read and hear - Internet Regulation and Governance: An International Perspective introduction. Lack of transparency in the process by which search results are produced means that we don’t tend to see messages saying “You have been banned by the government from visiting this site”, or “Someone will sue us if we let you see this.”
The United States regulation on the use of media, more specifically the television and the radio has been an endeavor that was launched since the 1920’s. On December 1998, the Presidential Advisory Committee asked digital television broadcasters to acquire a Code of Conduct which makes clear their public interests and commitments. In relation with this, former president Clinton asked the media to self regulate themselves in order to cater to the consumer concerns about privacy most especially in the internet. Such a call could be seen on the policies set forth by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and also the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). However, even though how hard the government has worked on the notion of self regulation, FTC claimed on its 1998 report that attempts for the media to regulate themselves has not been successful, most specially in terms of protecting consumer privacy. As such, it is assumed that a congressional action must be done in order to resolve such problems.
The central concern in the issue of media and internet regulation are primarily leaning towards the effect that it will bring to children. On the last few days of the Congressional session on 1998, a legislation was passed in order to protect the privacy of children, most specially in terms of using the internet; Albeit, the said regulation still calls for the media industry to self-regulate themselves. As such, one could significantly deduce that central on the idea of regulating media is not an imperative that the government has to do; rather a call that the industry and other stake holders must do for themselves.
On the study made by Livingstone, as based on the “Young People, New Media” and the “UK Children Go Online” project; Livingstone discussed on the effects of having a “technologically rich” household wherein the children has unlimited access to “computer, internet, TV-linked games machines, personal stereo, camcorder, mobile phones and Gameboy”. Livingstone also claimed that the multitude of all these electronic objects alters a lot on how a family treats the each member. As such Livingstone claimed that the time spent for instance for family meals or homework may shift as an effect of watching television. In addition with this, since the fact remains that children are more technologically savvy than their parents, it has become very hard for the latter to regulate their children’s use of these various forms of media.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has its Radio Code in existence for over 50 years and their Television Code for a span of 30 years. The radio code was enforced in order to curtail the airing of perspectives that are highly political in nature such as anti communism or anti capitalism. However, the said policy was enacted by NAB in order to guide broadcasters and not necessarily imposing them to follow such policies religiously. 
However, if regulating television and radio is something that the government and other stake holders of a particular country could easily address, such does not necessarily apply with the internet. Since the cyberspace is primarily marked as a borderless world due to the proliferation of information and communication that transgresses other beyond countries, the governments of various countries are also faced with a dilemma on how to effectively and properly regulate them without necessarily curtailing any basic right. Such a question then is something that the paper will address on the proceeding parts.
The Roots of Internet Regulation
Internet regulation has stemmed out of the need to avoid cybercrimes in the web. There are three major categories of cybercrimes. The first would be the use of the internet for the sake of harmful activities such as “drug trafficking, hate speech, bomb talk” etc. The second type is in relation to the use of the web for dangerous activities such as “pedophile acts and fraud”. And finally, the third factor is leaning towards unauthorized use of “imagery, software tools, music products, etc”.
The act of hacking or cracking the internet which is also called as “cyber-trespass” involves the unauthorized access of certain computer systems. These individuals are primarily categorized into four types: utopians, cyberpunks, cyber-spies, and cyber terrorists. The utopian hackers are the ones who perceived that they are doing something good for the society by exposing the vulnerabilities of the web; on the other hand the cyberpunks are those individuals who are intentionally hacking computers in order to cause harm. The difference between the cyber-spy and the cyber-terrorist are slightly blurred due to the fact that their goals are similarly leaning towards the access to restricted sites for whatsoever reasons.
Another cybercrime that is prevalent is the act of cyber-deceptions or thefts which primarily include the fraudulent use of credit cards and so-called cyber-cash. In some extreme cases, the hacking of bank accounts due to e-banking has also been documented.
The notion of cyberpiracy has been documented due to the proliferation of the illegal acquisition of various products that has intellectual property rights. So-called virtual products such as “music, office aides or interactive experiences” such as games and the likes are also profound through the use of the internet. The increase on the numbers of piracy in the web has widely breached the intellectual property laws most specially those relating to “trademarks, copyrights, patents, privacy and publicity laws”. More specifically, it has been claimed that there are two types of these type of piracy. The first is leaning towards the counterfeiting of certain goods like “toiletries, designer labels and character merchandise”. On the other hand, the second type is more of the stealing of “images, trademarks, texts, music, or general characteristics of the merchandise” for illegal use.
As such, the notion of “dilution” or the decrease of value of a certain product happens and in a bigger perspective causing a huge harm on the part of the company or organization where the theft was done. It is with this instance that the necessity of laws and other forms of regulation in the internet is necessary not only to protect the financial assets of a particular company, but also to protect the artistic or moral dimensions of the latter.
Cyber-pornography or obscenity involves the “publication or trading of sexually expressive materials within the cyberspace”. The difficulty of labeling pornography or obscenity has been viewed as due to the fact that such could not be labeled as necessarily illegal. For instance, in the United Kingdom, the question of obscenity is relative to the perceiver. As such, it could be the case that various images in UK which has been primarily consumed for the sake of mass media could already be labeled as obscene for some other countries like the Middle East.
As such, the issue of pornography through the internet has been one of the most widely debated and controversial issues that the Cyber Industry has to face. The concern of people, most specially the parents of the possibility of having their children divulge in such a type of web content has caused more problems on the issue of morality and safety of children. As such, there have been some organizations that aimed to eradicate obscene materials from the internet such as the Adult sites Against Child Pornography (ASACP).
Closely related on the problem of cyber-pornography is the problem of “cyber- violence” that is leaning towards the psychological effects of harassment such as “cyber stalking, hate-speech or even tech-talk”. The act of cyber-stalking includes the continuous sending of unsolicited emails or messages that includes obscenity or even death threats. However, issues still emerge of when to identify whether the email that is sent is leaning towards causing real harm.
Corollary with this is the existence of cyber-hate that is more of leaning towards various social or ethnic groups. The use of the internet in order to create and distribute hate-speeches is also abundant. A relevant case that could be cited here is the hate-speech that was created on the Holocaust denial which aims to alter the common notion about it. The said speech denies that the Jews were ever persecuted by the Nazis.
Tech-talks are also seen as a cybercrime due to the fact that certain technologies that could produce detrimental outcomes could also be posted in the web such as bomb creations.
The Nature of Internet Regulation
The dilemma of who and how will the internet be governed has created a lot of issues and problems for counties around the world, most especially in the United States. At present, there has been no government entity and established rules that strictly guides the regulation of the cyber world. However, even if such is the case, there have been a number of private institutions and other self-governing entities that have governed the internet, however in a loose manner. 
For instance, protocols such as hypertext transfer protocol (http) and also the hypertext markup language (html) are developed by specific programmers or a group of them. These protocols created by the latter are then passed on to standard bodies such as Internet Task Force or the Worldwide Web Consortium. The US government has also played its role in terms of internet governance as it requires domain name registration through various subcontractors such as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and Network Solutions, Inc.
In relation with this, in 1998, the United States government created a policy which claims that domain names could not be in operation in such an indefinite manner, hence former president Clinton required the private sector to establish its own non profit organization that would manage its domain name and address system. As such, the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was created.
On November 2000, ICANN has selected an additional seven domain names in addition to the existing “. org, .com. and .edu”. However, certain issues with regard to security and the proliferation of viruses are also being tried to be addressed by ICANN. To further add to such a dilemma faced by the organization, the fact that ICANN‘s endeavors is no longer supported by the US government, an issue emerges regarding its capacity to effectively administer the workings of the internet. On the other hand, if by any chance that ICANN would then seek or accept support from the government, could it be said that the former will still remain its independent nature? If there are certain issues such as internet security or the curtailing of various informations for the sake of “national security” or “morality” would the policies being employed by ICANN would remain independent of any government influence?
Taking another perspective, the European Internet Coregulation Network (EICN), has been leaning towards the perception of both self- regulation and coregulation in order to properly address the concerns of the cyberspace. The notion of coregulation has been viewed by EICN as an approach of internet governance wherein beliefs and responsibilities of both the private and the public sector are adopted and applied hand in hand. Such a process according to EICN leads to a more “open and balanced discussions between the business sector, the public authority and the civil society”. EICN perceives that the policy with regard to coregulation involves the notion of principle and efficiency. In addition with this, EICN also perceives that both the private and the public sector must work together in order to contribute on the further expanding, elaboration, and strengthening of the rules that govern the cyberspace. In addition, the question of efficiency in terms of maintaining order in cyberspace could not be fully actualized without the help of all the stakeholders. As such, EICN claims that the method of coregulation is the best approach that could be applied on the realm of the cyberspace.
In fact, the notion of coregulation has been something that has earned a huge acceptance in lots of countries. For instance, France’s Internet Rights Forum has been advocating on this approach since 2001, and has been experiencing a huge success. Other sectors around the globe have also been adopting the coregulation approach and are seeking to apply them on other fields. A good example of this is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and also the United Nations’ pursuit for a wider response in terms of international participations on various conventions.
The EICN has outlined its perspective with regards to the notion of “good internet governance”. On the report that they have presented in 2005, they have provided what they call as the best practices in order to achieve a high quality and effective regulation on the web.
EICN claimed that the internet is also a social matter that is in need of regulation. Since majority of the workings of corporations, individuals, and other aspects and institutions of the society are transferred in the internet, it is imperative that the latter should be governed in an efficient manner in order for it to evolve. In relation with this, EICN has made it clear that since the web is “decentralized” a “bottom-up process” is necessary in order for it to create rules and regulations that will fit and serve all of its stake holders. As such EICN emphasizes the need for various clusters in the internet to voice out their concerns and significantly contribute not only in the establishment of rules and guidelines that will make the web relatively better, but also ensure that such regulations and other policies are employed, respected and followed at all times.
EICN also enumerated the three major stakeholders of the internet: states, private sector and the civil society. EICN have emphasized the importance of these stakeholders’ contribution on the overall creation of the norms that are necessary for the web. As such EICN said:
“All of the stakeholders must be associated in the elaboration process of the norms because they all have shared responsibilities in defining and implementing them. This cooperation process is not an addition of bilateral dialogues between the States and the two others. It should be a real balanced dialogue between the three”.
In addition, EICN said that there are three levels on which stakeholders can do their part: the first is contributing in the workings of the body in order to further improve the existing norms; second would be the body having to consult them on certain preparatory stages in the establishment of the said conventions; and finally participating on the decision-making process itself.
Coregulation in terms of governing the internet could also be effective by having all of the process agreed upon by all of the stakeholders. Since the internet is an avenue wherein it is very hard to implement the rules, the very convention that is agreed upon by all of the participants will serve as a venue for the effective implementation and enforcement of all the rules. If there might be any difficulties that arise due to certain differences that are brought about by politics, the necessity of agreement on common objectives such as “common information and understanding on the subjects concerned” will definitely ensure effective implementation.
Also, the aggregation of various regulatory tools of every participant that are anchored on their specific visions of a good internet governance could be used in order to create effective solutions in order to create policies on a number of issues in the internet. More importantly, since the internet involves a number of participants in an international level, the necessity of enforcing the rules within countries and states is highly relevance most specially in upholding ethical practices and also privacy. Finally, EICN perceives the relevance for all stakeholders to change their preconceived notions of what the internet is. For instance, the government should try to see the web as something that is not their entire property, as such welcoming other perspectives from the private sectors and also from the citizens. On the other hand, the private sector should not only advance their own “corporate interests” in the creation of the norms for the internet. The necessity of objectively committing themselves for the sake of good internet governance must be always kept in all of their agendas. Finally, the role of the civil society is also very relevant since the abundance and diversity of opinions, suggestions and other perspectives will surely add up on the effective construction of internet norms.
Internet Governance and its Stakeholders
The question of whether who governs the cyberspace has been one of the most debated issues that the cyber realm has to focuses on. Due to the intricacy of the interplay of various stake holders from different countries, the problem of which government legal system should be applied in terms of establishing the laws for the internet poses a significant concern.
For the purpose of this essay, the paper focused on the notion of the government’s attempts to regulate the information coming from the internet in order to protect children against various forms of obscenity and danger.
The first attempts of the United States government to regulate the internet for the sake of children were through the application of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996. Through the application of such law, the government wanted to make illegal any sort of telecommunications contact that would bring forth indecent or obscene materials to children; in addition, the government through the said act advocated on the use of ISPs that would limit the access of minors on the internet.
However, the said attempt of the congress to use the CDA in order to regulate the internet was later on declared by the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania as unconstitutional as it violates the First and Fifth Amendments. In addition with it, the argument against the difficulty of identifying the ages of the individuals accessing particular information further made the application of the said act difficult. As such, the court said:
“As a matter of constitutional tradition, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we presume that governmental regulation of the content of speech is more likely to interfere with the free exchange of ideas than to encourage it. The interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship”.
One of the root causes of such a problem emerges on the fact that most of the workings within the internet are detached from their so-called “geographical space”, hence creating issues as to until what part of the internet does a particular country has under its jurisdiction. Since patterns of values and morality for various countries differ: like for instance, the freedom of speech in the United States could be considered as a threat to the values and norms of another country.
Council of Europe’s (CoE) International Cybercrime Convention that was held on 1998, was comprised of the Group of Eight (G8) which involves heads of states of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United states together with the CoE, and talked about strategies on how to effectively combat cybercrimes.
The primary draft of the said convention was released to the public on April 19 2000, and after which further drafts were released. The drafts of the policies that will be used in order to combat cybercrimes were created through the collaboration of 43 CoE countries other than the G8. Along with it, it was claimed by the CoE that the convention assured that basic human and civil rights are made proportional to the imperative laws that the convention perceived as necessary within the internet.
However, responses within the civil society groups appeared to be negative as they have perceived that the said convention was done without necessarily seeking the perspectives of civil liberties bodies or various Non Government Organizations (NGOs). As such, on October 18, 2000, a significant number of civil society groups from all over the world made a letter that was created by the Global Internet Liberty Campaign expressing their perspectives against the said convention. Come December 12, 2000, the same organizations sent another letter claiming that despite some changes that were done in the convention, claims such as the further threatening of rights of the citizens are still present. In addition with this, the said groups of organizations also claimed that the powers of the police are made significantly more superior than those of the citizens, hence a perceived “low-barrier protection of rights uniformly across borders” are still present. Also, the said group claimed that the convention “ignores highly-regarded data protection principles”. However, besides the letters that was sent to CoE, the requested changes were still not made; and on June 7, 2001 the American Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Privacy International sent another letter stating their negative perception against the final draft of the convention.
There are three major areas of concern that civil society groups and NGOs perceived on the final convention.
The first is with regard to the relatively immense amount of power that is bestowed upon the police force in order to investigate on a particular crime. It has been perceived by the NGOs and other civil societies group that the police are allowed under the convention to investigate certain criminal offences that could not be a crime in one’s own country but could be a crime in another. In relation with this, in times of investigation, the police from another country could seek help from the country of the offender as an imperative by having a “proof that requests assistance” coming from “competent authorities”. As such, the implication of this policy is the blurring of what constitutes a minor or a major offence in one country or another.
However, although there are provisions saying that such an assistance could be rejected if the said crime was political in nature, there has been no perceived guidelines or procedures to follow in order to identify if such an alleged crime is political in nature or not. Another implication for such a policy involves creating difficulties in countries all over the world which looks upon freedom of speech in the internet as a major criminal act. As such, it is supposed that such a policy of the convention could create a tangle of problems in certain cases wherein for instance an individual in a free country supports activists in some other countries and was happen to be intercepted by the police of the latter and was then claimed as have broken the law.
The issue raised above is closely related on the notion of self incrimination wherein alleged criminals are asked to turn over their “encryption keys and plain text of encrypted files”. The third major issue leans on a more general perspective of the effectiveness of such a policy since such has been alleged to be one sided. In addition with this, the issues that is brought forth due to the allegations that the process of creating the laws has been highly dominated by government entities and lacked the participation of civil society groups.
Internet Governance in Other Countries
A number of countries in Asia have been denying or restricting their citizens’ access to the internet such as Cuba, Laos, North Korea, People’s Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and Vietnam. One of the major ways employed by such countries in order to monopolize the internet is through the control of the users’ Internet Service Providers (ISPs). For instance, the Syrian government has been alleged to block the access to certain servers which give free email services. In addition with this, foreign diplomats in Syria were also perceived as not exempted from such a policy as some have experienced their telephone lines cut because such has been perceived by the government as a tool being used in order to access internet providers in other countries.
On the other hand, the government of Cuba controls virtually all of its citizens’ access to the net. More specifically, the Castro government also has all emails of the citizens censored. In addition with this, the access through the internet was made very limited, as citizens are only allowed to use the net on certain government approved institutions.
The censoring of the content of the internet is widespread in Asian countries, most specially the Middle East. Countries such as Bahrain, China, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Yemen have certain websites restricted for certain government purposes. Majority of the reasons provided by these countries are rooted on the argument of the preservation of public morality.
The method of censorship for Cuba is done primarily through the use of proxy servers. The government normally interposes the proxy server between the end user and the web in order to block certain contents that are perceived to be a threat. Also, the government strictly monitors the workings of internet cafes to make sure that no unnecessary activities are being conducted. In addition with this, if a cafe has been caught to violate the policies of the government, the latter could be closed permanently.
Another method imposed by the Cuban government in order to regulate their citizen’s access to the internet is through having its citizens pay huge taxes just to maintain an email account. It has been reported that the registration tax for an email in Cuba is $240, which is indeed expensive for a country that has a per capita income of $1,700. In addition with this, Cuba has also forbidden its citizens to purchase “ computers, offset printer equipment, mimeographs, photocopiers, and any other mass printing medium” to “associations, foundations, civic and nonprofit organizations, and Cuban private individuals” as per compliance to the presidential decree 383/2001.
In North Korea, Kim Jong Il has claimed illegal the ownership of personal computers and even the access to the internet outside the state. The North Korean government perceived that the use of internet has been widely centered on the distribution of certain propagandas in countries all over the world.
People’s Republic of China (PRC) as of present has been the most notorious most especially in terms of internet abuses. Although a huge number of internet users in China, (i.e. 33.7 million) are in existence, the government still seeks to control such by having its 250,000 mainland websites and 200,000 internet cafes regulated. Central to the PRC’s regulation are more of political in nature as the latter has been normally restricting access to web contents that are perceived as “subversive or critical of the state”. There are two major government offices that regulates the internet in PRC and these are the China’s Ministry of Information Industry which regulates the internet itself and also the Ministries of Public and State Security closely looked on how the citizens and other private institutions used it.
Majority of the criminal offenses and arrests that were bestowed upon PRC’s citizens are primarily due to the use of the internet for political reasons. One significant case that could be cited is what happened to Huag Qi, a Chinese citizen who have been “bound hand and foot and beaten by police while they tried to force him to confess to subversion”. The problem against the PRC government emerge when on Huang’s website, he included a number of information which questions the lost of a significant number of individuals, more particularly students who are involved on the demonstrations made on June 1989 in Tiananmen Square.
In order to regulate the web, the Ministry for Information and Technology have ISPs, Internet access IDs, postal addresses, and telephone number of users recorded and closely monitor if the citizens are able to access the blocked websites in the United states such as the Voice of America, Washington Post, New York Times, BBC, Human Rights Watch and also Amnesty International.
Another significant case that could be cited is what happened on Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist who has been alleged to “divulge state secrets abroad”. Yahoo! Holdings based in Hong Kong told the Chinese state investigators that Shi Tao allowed them to link his writings about the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on various international websites.
On the research conducted by OpenNet which is a study made by three universities claimed that words which would entice political issues and concerns such as “Freedom, Taiwan and Falun Gong” have been made unavailable to the entirety of China. However what made these findings even more controversial is that citizens are made to see that they have reached an unknown site by flashing “host not found” or error messages instead of flashing messages that reveals government restriction on the said sites. Such a type of censorship is difficult to identify because people who normally are redirected to some unknown or error site attributes such an occurrence to some other cause, rather than the government. In addition, such a type of censorship is also hard to prove.
The regulation of the Internet has been an endeavor that has been pioneered by the United States since 1920’s. The central concern in the issue of media and internet regulation are primarily leaning towards the effect that it will bring to children. On the last few days of the Congressional session on 1998, a legislation was passed in order to protect the privacy of children, most specially in terms of using the internet; Albeit, the said regulation still calls for the media industry to self-regulate themselves.
The roots of Internet regulation has stemmed out of the need to avoid cybercrimes in the web. The dilemma of who and how will the internet be governed has created a lot of issues and problems for counties around the world, most especially in the United States. At present, there has been no government entity and established rules that strictly guides the regulation of the cyber world. However, even if such is the case, there have been a number of private institutions and other self-governing entities that have governed the internet, however in a loose manner.
EICN claimed that the internet is also a social matter that is in need of regulation. Since majority of the workings of corporations, individuals, and other aspects and institutions of the society are transferred in the internet, it is imperative that the latter should be governed in an efficient manner in order for it to evolve. In relation with this, EICN has made it clear that since the web is “decentralized” a “bottom-up process” is necessary in order for it to create rules and regulations that will fit and serve all of its stake holders.
As such, the perceived method of EICN in order to effectively govern the web should be more of a coregulated approach rather than mere self regulation. However, a number of issues were raised by civil society groups and NGOs questioning if the said conventions that are being conducted for the sake of global international governance is indeed open just like what happened to Council of Europe’s (CoE) International cybercrime Convention.
A number of countries in Asia have been denying or restricting their citizens’ access to the internet such as Cuba, Laos, North Korea, People’s Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and Vietnam. Majority of the reasons provided by these countries are rooted on the argument of the preservation of public morality.
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