Internet Governance and Policies

Group #: Group 5 (Mehwish M, Jin Peng (John) Jiang, Jason C, Rupom Rahman)
Tutorial # and Date: Tutorial 002 (Tuesday, 1-2 p.m, BV 494)
Teacher’s Assistant: Gordon Hawkins

Internet Governance and Policy

Governance is the act, process or power of government. Policies are plans or courses of action, as of a government, political party, or business, intended to influence and determine decisions, actions, and other matters. Yochai Benkler, a professor of law developed a conceptualization of Internet governance by the idea of three "layers" of governance: the "physical infrastructure" layer through which information travels; the "code" or "logical" layer that controls the infrastructure; and the "content" layer, which contains the information that signals through the network. However, simply put together with the concept of the Internet in mind, these can be simply defined as government rules and regulations in regards to activities that take place in the World Wide Web.

History of Internet Governance

The Internet’s predecessor, the ARPANET was initially designed as a network bridge between universities. However as it grew in both size and functionality and became considered as more of a utility than a research project, it was transferred to the US Communications Defence Agency. Unfortunately, as more and more nations began to become users of the ARPANET, it began to inch closer into the hands of the private sector. By the time the ARPANET was terminated, the Internet had risen to take its place. However it was placed under the control of the US Department of Commerce.

This would cause some controversy since there was a strong belief that such a project should be allowed to be used equally by all nations. The very same degradation of governance that led to the downfall of the ARPANET was now set upon the Internet. The level of control that the US government had would soon evaporate and almost all Internet infra-structure would end up being provided and owned by the private sector.

Controversies with Internet governance and policies

The main instigator of controversy and conflict between Internet governance and policies and the Internet is the Internet’s affinity with the private sector. Internet users are often reported to be uncomfortable with the idea that every move they make and every site they visit while using the Internet is monitored and recorded by an external source. Limitless freedoms and chances to express oneself are valued luxuries that the Internet can allow, if left only to the devices of its users. The concept of government (an entity whose main goal is to establish and enforce rules and laws) working hand in hand with the idea of the Internet and its affiliation with the private sector is considered to be absurd by many. Thus, the level of governance and policies are rendered to a level in which it is only to provide basic guidelines and security for the users of the Internet.

Measures against Unlawfulness

Despite its intangible nature, the Internet is also subject to corruption, and can be manipulated into being a tool for acts that can be seen as unlawful. As a result, governments have begun to install certain measures in order to create and sustain a sense of lawfulness and order among networks connected to the Internet. With the advancing growth in and adoption of the Internet, governments and individuals are now more reliant on the Internet. In order to minimize these potential security risks, implementation and knowledge of Internet security techniques have increasingly become more and more important. Nonetheless, some observers state the importance of Internet governance; while on the other hand, some less radical observers believe that the success of Internet should rather depend on keeping governance to a minimum. It is important to acknowledge the success of Internet to a significant extent, due to the popularity and ease of use due to its free and open nature. Nevertheless, it is also true that with the absence of rules, it can be as harmful as the existence of bad rules; anarchy is as detrimental as stifling regulation. Therefore, the right question should be the factors that constitute good governance rather than whether if there should be governance at all.

Major Internet governance issues

Computer viruses

A computer virus is a program that has the ability to replicate itself in order to infect its host computer. It can be spread via networks, or in a form of removable medium such as a flobby disk, USB drive, CD or DVD. Due to the Internet’s affinity with the private sector, there are few ways to eliminate the spread of viruses. However there has been encouragement of the development of programs that can detect and/or prevent the entry and subsequent infection of a virus into a computer’s main system. In accordance to Internet policies, companies specializing in the development of computers such as Apple Inc. and the Microsoft Corporation have considered and maintained a steadfast view in ensuring that their products are designed with built-in measures against computer viruses.


Spam is the abuse of electronic messaging systems in order to send unsolicited bulk message indiscriminately. Although not as harmful as computer viruses, they are capable of slowing down Internet loading processes and have even been linked to unexpected browser malfunctions. The most common form of spam is email spam, although they can also be received via text messaging, wikipedias, blogs, web search engines, online classified advertisements, social networks and other sources. There are special programs that have been developed to block spam, although the rate of success is not always consistent. Online message boards have also been designed in order to inform Internet users on how to avoid spam.

Online fraud and cyber crime

Cyber crime is defined as any sort of criminal activity involving information technology infrastructure. Examples include illegal and/or unauthorized access to certain sites, illegal interception, data and systems interference, misuse of devices and online forgery. Online fraud refers to any form of fraud that involves online services to present fake advertisements to others, conduct transactions with the victimized party and to collect those funds or to transfer them to another group affiliated with the scheme. Due to the anonymity of many of these crimes, as well as the frequency of such acts, Internet governance and policies have been consistently refined and attuned in order to challenge and prevent any kind of cyber crime and online fraudery. An example can be seen in online message boards which have been developed to inform Internet users about the dangers of being targeted by cyber crime and online fraud, as well as the penalties of being involved in such activities.

Privacy and personal data protection

Privacy and personal data protection is a major factor of Internet policy and governance. If left in the wrong hands, private information can be leaked forth and abused in several ways. The consequences can be crippling to the victim in question. As a result, it is a mandatory requirment of all technologies and browsers linked to the Internet to provide a form of security by which the user can stake their personal and private information to. These security measures can vary in terms of mutability, depending on the source.

Availability and affordability issues

The Internet is considered to be an important aspect of life in the 21st century. Millions of users use it daily in order to communicate, search for information or to seek entertainment. As a result, a crucial part of Internet policy is to seek and maintain better availability and affordability of these services for their users.

Speed and reliability issues

Speed and reliability is a major issue in Internet policies. Even the most advanced and sophisticated of Internet browsers will face some sort of problem associated with the speed and reliability of their loading processes. Loading processes that are too slow or result in an inability to display the desired webpage often result in the user being forced to use excess money and time to attempt to get the problem fixed, or to resort to often-illegal methods to get their desired results.

The Regime Theory, and its relevance to Internet Governance and Policies

Regime theory is a theory within international relations. It is based on a liberal tradition that supports the argument that international institutions or regimes are capable of affecting the behavior and decisions of states (or other international actors). By assuming that cooperation is possible in the anarchic system of states, it can be established that regimes are instances of international cooperation. The inclusion of "rules and decision-making procedures" means that regimes can also translate principles and norms into formal organizations, explicit rules, and even laws.

This is the template that Internet governance and policies strives to emulate and maintain. By establishing concrete rules that all users are required to follow yet allowing them to maintain a level of liberty and privacy in what they do while online, a strong sense of online law and order is created.

1. Yochai Benkler, From Consumers to Users: Shifting the Deeper Structures of Regulation Towards Sustainable Commons and User Access, 52 Fed. Comm. L.J. 561, (2000)
2. Mueller, Milton. The Internet and Global Governance: Principles and Norms for a New Regime. Lynne Reienner. 2009 ( )
3. Hauben, Michael. History of the ARPANET.
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