The Transboundary Internet – coping with new realities

At the Internet Governance Forum meeting in Hyderabad I will be chairing a workshop entitled – “The Transboundary Internet – Jurisdiction, Control, and Sovereignty”. I am delighted to be working with very knowledgeable panelists here including.

  • Meryem Marzouki – European Digital Rights (EDRI), Europe & National Centre
    for Scientific Research (CNRS) – Univ. Pierre et Marie Curie, France
  • Philippe Boillat- Director General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs, Council of Europe
  • James Love – Director, Knowledge Ecology International
  • Bret Fausett – Intellectual Property and Internet attorney, Adorno Yoss
  • William J. Drake – Centre for International Governance, Graduate Institute of
    International and Development Studies – Geneva
  • Rishi Jaitly, South Asia Government Affairs Manager, Google Inc.

Our rationale was stated as follows.

“The Internet crosses the boundaries of all nations and raises some unique transboundary jurisdictional problems. The recent case of a British citizen living in Spain, with Internet servers in the Bahamas, selling holidays to Cuba, and having his domain name impounded by a registrar located in the USA
because it appeared to break the US embargo against Cuba is one recent case in point. Another landmark case was the French-US Yahoo! case in 1999 dealing with sale of nazi memorabilia, but apart from these high profile content cases there are many examples in other areas such as privacy, consumer issues, cybercrime, and intellectual property”.

Let’s mention another example. The Pakistan government ordered a block on offensive content published on YouTube, headquartered in USA, for material by a Dutch politician publicising cartoons from a Danish newspaper which were offensive to many Islamic people. The way the block was implemented took all of You Tube’s global content off line for two hours. I won’t go into the technicalities, but the overkill was recitified and something more locally suitable implemented.

But questions remain as to how such issues should be dealt with. This workshop will discuss the many implications of competing national jurisdictions being projected into a globalized space where multiple normative sources apply, such as political, legal, technical, contractual, and behavioral
regulations. Through practical case studies, this workshop will look at the implications of various approaches to resolving these issues and the implications for Internet governance, international law, national sovereignty, democracy, and human rights and fundamental freedoms. It should be an interesting
session!

The workshop also explores the implications for Internet governance where no structures are in place to deal with emerging issues, and how default unilateral action in the absence of structural alternatives can lead to de facto Internet governance.

All inputs and thoughts welcome! Some detailed discussion of this area is long overdue and it would be good to see attention paid to how we should address these sorts of issues.

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