A recent report from the internet governance project at the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) highlights the increasing threat to the internet as the internet evolves and as it is regulated.
The report, “The Internet: A Path Toward Global Governance”, describes how the internet is now an “operational space” with the potential to transform the global governance of government and businesses, and the global economy.
While the report does not address the internet’s ability to govern itself, it does offer insights on the challenges and opportunities facing the internet, from the regulatory side, to the economic side, and in particular its potential to impact the internet economy and global society.
“The Internet’s potential to reshape the global society is well-documented and is a key factor that will drive its adoption, its adoption in new contexts and new markets, and ultimately its continued growth,” CRS writes.
The authors argue that “the internet’s economic impact on society is likely to be greater than any other technological advancement in the past half century.”
In the report, they argue that while it is true that there are many aspects of the internet that have been proven to be valuable to economic growth and innovation, its value lies in its potential for regulating and limiting the economic impacts of its use.
“By focusing on the regulation of the network’s operations and users, and by focusing on how the network and its users interact, policymakers can ensure that the network is functioning according to the rules set by the network operators,” they write.
“But the regulators should also recognize that the Internet can be a place of innovation and the use of new technology, too.”
The report goes on to describe how the regulation and surveillance of the web has evolved over the past 20 years, and points to the fact that “governments have adopted rules to prevent users from accessing certain sites without their permission, to regulate the number of simultaneous users, to restrict access to certain types of websites, to require certain types and types of content to be approved or blocked, and to prohibit certain types or types of devices from accessing the internet.”
These new rules have been adopted by governments around the world, and are used to restrict internet access for a variety of purposes, from criminal law to health and education.
“There is increasing recognition that governments must now ensure that all aspects of internet governance are in line with the rule of law and human rights,” the report reads.
It goes on, citing examples of such actions:The US has enacted “net neutrality” rules that require internet service providers to block, throttle, or otherwise slow access to any website that they do not like.
These rules are often referred to as “Net Neutrality”, but the term is sometimes misused.
For example, some commentators have argued that they are an attempt to protect the free flow of information, but critics say that they have the opposite effect.
“These rules are designed to prevent content providers from providing a certain type of service to the public, so that they can charge extra for it,” the CRS authors argue.
They go on to cite examples where the rules have not been applied, such as in Turkey where the Turkish Telecommunications Authority (MTI) has been blocking websites that it deems to be “non-essential”.
This has led to the arrest of hundreds of journalists and bloggers for alleged violations of the country’s strict internet law.
In May this year, the US Justice Department announced it was sending a team to Turkey to review the legality of the anti-internet law.
In April this year the US Department of Justice (DOJ) also announced that it had initiated an investigation into the use by the Turkish government of the World Wide Web to censor political speech.