Internet Governance

November 14th, 2016

Big thanks to Prof. Waldo and Dean Smith for bringing in Dr. Bradner in as a guest speaker during our past meeting. I thoroughly enjoyed his talk and the humor in his PPT.

As mentioned by Dr. Bradner during his talk, the internet remains as one of the few things that is not governed at an international level. This current lack of governance, however, does not suggest that there is a general consensus on how internet should be governed. Instead, much of the decisions are differentiated at the level of individual countries. For example, while the States have minimal rules governing the internet (FCC rules), China has built a “Great Wall” around internet access and usage.

In my opinion, I do not believe this lack of governance is sustainable. There is obvious tension bubbling underneath the surface, particularly with increased international pressure on countries like China that limit access to certain parts of the internet for its citizens. Although this tension is now contained within reasonable scope (no active intervention yet!), it could easily culminate into something greater should “catalysts” be introduced. This catalyst could take many forms. For example, if a specific incidence involving internet governance draws empathy or attention from an international audience, it could be easily sensationalized through media.

Interestingly enough, despite the restrictions that China places on the internet, Dr. Bradner mentions the incredibly vibrant internet community within the country. Although I did not ask what he meant by a “vibrant internet community,” I identify with what he is referring to. Although the media and the general public may imagine Chinese citizens as people suffering from suppression or a lack of access to information, I never felt like I “lacked” access to anything. Although I can’t access YouTube, Google, Instagram, or Facebook, I have access to many outlets like Tudou, Baidu, Weibo, and WeChat. The restricted sites are such small parts of the regular routine in China that a lack of access to those resources only result in small inconveniences, if any. But as China is now a location of tourism and work for many foreigners, the issues are evolving into a larger international concern.

One Response to “Internet Governance”

  1. Jim Waldo said:

    I like the thought that, rather than looking at what may be restricted in one country or another, we think in terms of what might be lacking in a particular country. Not having YouTube doesn’t matter if there is an alternative for expression, and Facebook may not be needed if there are other ways of connecting with friends. I would worry that the existence of different ecosystems on the Internet would make it more difficult for citizens of one country to understand the experience of those in another, but we found that we can get that in the U.S. with different newsfeeds.

    A lot to think about here…thanks.

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