Whose Internet

The issue of Internet Governance is really much more complicated than it appears. There’re so many way to look at it and depending on where you stand, you can have completely different takes on it. Firstly it’s definitely a technological issue, but it is also a socioeconomical and even a political one. No matter what your position is, as citizens of the Internet, Internet Governance does influence us on a daily basis. From John Perry Barlow’s A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace in 1996 to stop SOPA & PIPA movement last year, as we rally for internet freedom, we sometimes forget that the Internet is never invented for public discourse. The Internet we know today was emerged from ARPANET, a project funded by U.S. Department of Defense during the cold war, in defense of nuclear threats. Although it has involved along the way into this space where we connect and share thoughts with each other, some very crucial questions are still yet to be solved- should the Internet be governed? If so, who controls the Internet?

It’s easy (and also tempting) to say the internet should be a free space, but it’s not really that reasonable or realistic.

In his book Ruling the Root : Internet Governance and the Taming of Cyberspace, Milton Mueller boils down the issue of Internet Governance to the ruling of “the root”, which is the technical architecture of the Internet – its domain name system and a set of protocol as known as TCP/IP. It’s quite interesting and a little ironic that the core of the Internet is so centralized while network is rather decentralized. Because of this centralized-decentralized design of the Internet, the party that controls the domain name system becomes a very powerful role. This has became a very tricky issue and often put organizations like ICANN (the Internet Corporation for the Assignment of Names and Numbers) in the center of the debate, because it worries people that a company  registered in the U.S. would inevitably be exposed to pressure coming from the U.S. government.

As Cerf, Ryan and Senges mentions in their piece, because the Internet is a shared space, governing should also be a shared responsibility and take into account of all the stakes from all the parties involved. That’s why it is especially important to have organizations like the Internet Governance Forum, to bring together multi-stake holders to tackle, or at least start a dialogue on many of the issues we both face,and at least try to keep our Internet a safe and free space.

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