ITIF Unveils Novel Framework to Govern “Cross-Border” Internet Policy Conflicts

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ITIF has developed a policy framework that allows nations the right to customize Internet policy to their own national needs and rules, while at the same time constraining those rights in ways that enable global Internet commerce.

The same capabilities that make the Internet the incredible powerhouse it is have exacerbated the international conflicts that arise between nations with different laws and values

Even though the importance of the Internet to the global economy and society continues to grow, nations collectively have made little progress in creating an actionable framework for resolving the many international conflicts over Internet policy that inevitably occur. These conflicts arise over a myriad of issues, such as free speech, intellectual property, privacy and taxation, but despite many attempts, no framework has been successful at providing a practical and widely-accepted model of cross-border Internet policy.

In a new report, Beyond Internet Universalism: A Framework for Addressing Cross-Border Internet Policy, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) argues that the chief reason for this failure has been the reliance on “all-or-nothing” Internet policy approaches, either universal rules applied to all nations or a complete free-for-all among countries. This dichotomy fails to provide a pragmatic path forward to resolve the inevitable conflicts that arise in a manner that respects sovereignty while at the same time maintaining the global nature of the Internet.

“The ability to use the Internet to purchase products and services from halfway around the world, to talk to friends and strangers in other countries, and to share and discover new ideas, has made it the defining technology of the 21st century,” says Daniel Castro, Senior Analyst with ITIF and co-author of the report. “However, the same capabilities that make the Internet the incredible powerhouse that contributes trillions of dollars annually to the global economy—the ability to transfer data seamlessly across geographic borders—has exacerbated the international conflicts that arise between nations with different laws and values.”

In response, ITIF has developed a policy framework that allows nations the right to customize Internet policy to their own national needs and rules, while at the same time constraining those rights in ways that enable global Internet commerce. This includes recognizing that when it comes to the Internet’s technical architecture a universalist approach to promulgate global, commonly shared standards is necessary. Countries that wish to participate in the Internet must agree on a common technical architecture (e.g., domain names, networking protocols, etc.), otherwise it would degenerate into a series of national-level networks.

Conversely, when it comes to policies about how the Internet is used there can be differences between nations that match individual values and goals. However, international agreements should be utilized to achieve and formalize consensus on various policy goals, particularly those that have an effect on individuals outside the country. Where there is no consensus on the broad goal, nations should limit their policymaking activities to proposals that do not impact those outside their borders.

“By using a common framework for analyzing cross-border Internet policy issues, and understanding which issues should be contested and which should not, policymakers can avoid unnecessary conflicts and better identify the validity of criticisms of different Internet policy proposals,” Castro adds.

Read the report.

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William Dube
ITIF
202-626-5744
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