You are here: Home Knowledge Base Polity Internet Governance Structures Solutions Develop an “Internet constitution” to take account of the interests of all stakeholders and guarantee essential freedoms. Equip this constitution with new instruments and institutions of governance allowing for decentralized ...
Symposium 2011

Solution for Internet Governance Structures

The Challenge

The rapid development of the internet has prompted a debate about how to shape internet governance, a project that is still very much in its infancy. It can be assumed that whoever controls the basic ...

The rapid development of the internet has prompted a debate about how to shape internet governance, a project that is still very much in its infancy. It can be assumed that whoever controls the basic structure of the internet (what are known as “critical internet resources”) also has the power to exercise control over content.

Develop an “Internet constitution” to take account of the interests of all stakeholders and guarantee essential freedoms. Equip this constitution with new instruments and institutions of governance allowing for decentralized decision-making and collective action.

At present, the Internet is governed by the multistakeholder principle— that is, stakeholders from governments, business and civil society are working together. Rising concerns about the security and stability of the Internet are calling for further regulations than the co- and self-regulation of this kind.

The Internet has grown through collaboration, coordination and cooperation. Its nature is diametrically opposed to that of politics: the Internet is decentralized, politics is centralized; the Internet works bottom-up, politics is top-down. But governments are increasingly trying to control the Internet.

The Arab Spring is a good example of people using the Internet to coordinate rebellion against unpopular, dictatorial governments, and of governments trying in vain to shut down the Internet. Several countries have talked about wanting an Internet “kill switch” to prevent citizens from using the Internet during social unrest. Nobody owns the Internet and, for many states, that is seen as a threat. The Internet does not respect borders.

The future challenge is to define the values of the Internet at a global level and to design a constitution of the Internet, which, on the one hand, takes account of the interests of all stakeholders as a continuing process and, on the other hand, contains rules against the abuse of the Internet and guarantees essential freedoms.

As the Internet has grown organically and gains most of its dynamic and innovation out of its bottom-up organization, traditional hierarchical instruments of governance are not appropriate. New instruments must be developed that allow decentralized decision-making by individual actors as well as collective actions.

Prototypes of such instruments can be found in biological systems. Topdown government institutions have to be rebuilt as networks—networks that work together with other networks.

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