Fragmentation, Censorship and Political Surveillance of the Internet Are Among Risks in Global Debate on Governance, New CIGI Paper Says

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Governance issues over the evolution of Internet technology, resources, protocols and standards will play an increasingly important role in global debates, according to a new report issued by The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

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Governance issues over the evolution of Internet technology, resources, protocols and standards will play an increasingly important role in global debates, according to a new report issued by The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

In "Internet Points of Control as Global Governance," CIGI Senior Fellow Laura DeNardis explores key Internet governance issues that will have profound impact on global public policy discussions in coming years. She says that government involvement in regulating or facilitating Internet interconnection through a payment model, for example, would be a departure from the current governance approach and could “fragment the Internet based on political manipulation.” DeNardis says this change “could present a range of unintended or intended consequences — such as creating new concentrated points for government censorship, surveillance and politically motivated interconnection blockages, or creating economic disincentives for major content companies...”

DeNardis also points out the consequences that could come from having the Domain Name System (DNS) play a larger role in content control. Noting that this approach is already used for censorship in repressive contexts and in the United States for intellectual property rights enforcement, DeNardis says “this practice would be controversial because it would fragment the Internet’s universality depending on country and possibly create security and stability challenges to the DNS.”

The report, which outlines the critical Internet resources at play within the larger architecture ensuring a universal system, stresses that the technical standards, as esoteric as they are, can have a real economic and political impact, and “to a certain extent, enact public policy in areas that are traditionally carried out by governments.” DeNardis says, “they are the infrastructural foundations for global trade and the digital public sphere, but their design and constitution create public policy in areas as politically charged as privacy, accessibility and other individual civil liberties.” She adds, “the policy implications of Internet standards raise the obvious governance question of how these standards are procedurally established and by whom.”

"Internet Points of Control as Global Governance" is paper No. 2 in the Internet Governance Papers series, part of CIGI’s global security project "Organized Chaos: Reimagining the Internet." To access a free copy of this report, please visit: http://www.cigionline.org/publications/2013/8/internet-points-of-control-global-governance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
CIGI Senior Fellow Laura DeNardis is an Internet governance scholar and professor in the School of Communication at American University in Washington, D.C. Her books include The Global War for Internet Governance (forthcoming 2014), Opening Standards: The Global Politics of Interoperability (2011), Protocol Politics: The Globalization of Internet Governance (2009) and Information Technology in Theory (2007, with Pelin Aksoy). She served as the executive director of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School from 2008–2011, and is a co-founder and co-series editor of the MIT Press Information Society book series. She currently serves as the elected vice-chair of the Global Internet Governance Academic Network. DeNardis holds an A.B. in engineering science from Dartmouth College, an M.Eng. from Cornell University, a Ph.D. in science and technology studies from Virginia Tech, and was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship from Yale Law School.

MEDIA CONTACT:
Kevin Dias, Communications Specialist, CIGI
Tel: 519.885.2444, ext. 7238, Email: kdias(at)cigionline(dot)org

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is an independent, non-partisan think tank on international governance. Led by experienced practitioners and distinguished academics, CIGI supports research, forms networks, advances policy debate and generates ideas for multilateral governance improvements. Conducting an active agenda of research, events and publications, CIGI’s interdisciplinary work includes collaboration with policy, business and academic communities around the world. CIGI was founded in 2001 by Jim Balsillie, then co-CEO of Research In Motion (BlackBerry), and collaborates with and gratefully acknowledges support from a number of strategic partners, in particular the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. For more information, please visit http://www.cigionline.org.

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