Virtual Sovereignty: Governments, Stakeholders and Internet Governance

Virtual Sovereignty: Governments, Stakeholders and Internet Governance

The way the Internet is governed is of strategic importance to modern society. Yet current Internet governance (IG) is not robust enough to address the Internet’s critical relevance. The revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the deep reach of spy agencies online created a major earthquake in digital politics, showing the limitations of the existing Internet governance institutions in dealing with major economic and geopolitical tensions. Many governments, international organizations, think tanks and experts, have started a search for a new IG formula, moving the issue from the realm of engineers and geeks into the premier league of global politics. The main challenge is how to reconcile the tension between current IG, led by nongovernmental players, and increasing demands for a stronger role for governments.

The Evolution of Internet Governance

The current debate cannot be understood outside the broader historical context of the Internet’s development. Thirty years ago, engineers, academics and geeks, based mainly at U.S. universities, started managing the Internet through the principle of “running code and rough consensus.” This functional and inclusive approach allowed the Internet to develop incrementally as a unique, collaborative endeavor. The U.S. government played the role of “distant guardian”—close enough to support research on the Internet, mainly financially, but far enough away not to interfere in the how the Internet was governed.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.