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    The .root Saga Continues | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 8 comments | Search Discussion
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    Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu open their book
    by Anonymous on Monday May 01 2006, @01:59PM (#16740)
    Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu open their book, Who Controls the Internet? (just out from Oxford University Press).

    Who controls the internet? Once upon a time, we'd have answered (cheerfully or dolefully, depending on where we stood on the anarchy-to-order spectrum): 'nobody'. Because of its transnational, global nature, the net seemed to be beyond the control of mere governments, locked into petty jurisdictions and relying on antiquated, steam-age laws to impose order.

    'Governments of the industrial world', wrote John Perry Barlow in his 1996 'Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace', 'you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from cyberspace, the new home of mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather... You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have... reason to fear.'

    It makes sobering reading. The theme of the book is that, when they choose to do it, governments are perfectly capable of wielding coercive power over those who use the internet.

    The end result in both cases, though, is the same: people who imagined they were operating in the borderless, law-free realms of cyberspace find themselves subjected to the mundane laws and standards of what Barlow used to call 'meatspace'.
    [ICANN is all about meatspace and face-to-face
    meetings in expensive remote locations.]

    A good thing too, some will say. But there are some downsides to this. The most obvious is that the democratising power of the net - the thing that made us think that it was a force for creating open societies - can, and will, be curtailed. 'That government-wielded force can change the very nature of the internet itself', write Goldsmith and Wu, 'is nowhere clearer than in China, where a brawny and self-confident People's Republic is building a nationalist internet within its borders. As China does this, it is creating a network that is moving away from the internet in the West, not only in its language, but also in its values and deep architecture.'
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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]


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