in the 90s when
the internet was starting up, was dominated by libertarian ideas,
freedom of speech and information etc
calls for governments to introduce regulation, to enforce laws over
child porn, copyright, hate speech etc – also digital rights, net
change social discourse – compare to printing press, was used both
for government propaganda and independent counter-argument
gradual creep of
trying to bring some order to a chaotic and distributed environment
sat up and taken notice of internet / social media as democratic
tool after seeing recent events in Egypt etc
effective tool for people to unite to bring social change – flip
side is that governments now have free access to discussions among
dissidents etc which previously they could only have obtained by
interrogation and torture
Compare to first
english translations of bible, "unofficial" translations
from latin contained added ideas considered heretical by the church,
spurred production of "official" translation
states and the law would become involved in the net sooner or later
as the alternative is anarchy – this may be generally a good
thing, but most of the internet's potential capability is still
unexplored, so precautionary principle is important, trying to
prevent people using the intenet to challenge established business
models is short sighted – risk of using the law to protect the
past at the expense of the future – imperative to policy makers to
not screw it up!
globalisation of capital – no longer controlled by governments but
instead has self regulating system. Internet and law – whose law
is it, no single national government can be the source of authority
or legal jurisdiction. Money and capital still move to places where
laws to control them don't exist, so does the internet. Makes
internet inherently challenging to govern. Not so much about law as
about new norms of global behaviour in this new environment. - i.e.
"trolling" developing as an unacceptable behavioural norm.
If people currently in power are challenged by the new norms, they
may try to stop them developing, but are unlikely to succeed.
by the major players (microsoft, google etc) to call for regulation
themselves in the wake of hacking attacks, lawsuits etc. Not just
about the governments trying to control things, corporations are as
well, but individuals also need their rights protected as well as
protecting corporate profits.
Regulation of the
internet may not come through legislation and democratic discussion,
but rather through closed discussions of trade policy which
restricts what we can do, growth of the internet and evolution of
Law is not
guaranteed, subject to cost-benefit considerations, "good
enough for now", as is the internet, so the law will morph to
adapt to this environment given time – but will it evolve fast
enough to keep up. Be careful what you ask for, because the more
people call for regulations, the more politicians will be motivated
to try regulate, often in a heavy handed and poorly thought out way
that may hinder more than help.
regulations apply to most criminal acts carried out online, just
changes the venue and way the crime is committed. Legislation must
follow innovation and be accompanied by social change and
technological fixes, can't do the job by itself. Some new laws
introduced however, e.g. s 248-252 of crimes act, misuse of a
Internet is the
latest in a long stream of communication technologies, preceded by
printing press, radio, newspaper etc. Difference with the internet
is that it is now cheap and easy and international for ordinary
people to get their message heard and talk with other individuals on
a one-to-one or many to many basis, rather than centralised
propagation of message. Battle between the future and the past, the
past will always try to control the future because the past is
comfortable in its incumbency, so look around and see what current
models are threatened – repressive governments, publishers, music
and movie labels. However it is the state which imposes regulation,
so threats to the established order and current law are what will
spur the biggest responses.
Look for who
benefits, cui bono – often it is the governments in charge, but
more often it is about money, corporations who will try to protect
their money and ongoing income stream.
Need to connect
online and offline regulatory systems – look at bloggers and human
rights activists being arrested overseas to show how governments are
monitoring activity online to control people offline. Governments
also try to control the internet by ordering companies to take
action, e.g. shutting down cellphone networks in Egypt revolution,
and this makes internet companies nervous as government approach is
often simplistic and poorly thought out.
opinion plays in influencing governments – interplay of the
internet and traditional mass media in swaying public opinion.
Most old world
laws apply remarkably well to the internet, better than might be
expected – fair trading act and consumer guarantees act needed
very little modification to be applicable to online trading, which
shows flexibility of existing law under many circumstances. Tendency
to generalise on how the internet impacts on our daily lives, with
regulation of the internet as a whole, but these are separate issues
despite being closely linked.
Lots of law
developing in this area – copyright, domain names, jurisdiction,
criminal law – but these are mostly existing areas which are just
being adapted to fit internet issues.
applying to internet activities which would not have been
criminalised under traditional law, or at least would be much harder
to catch people. So in some areas the internet has made it easier
for people to be prosecuted (for banned pornography for instance)
issues requires open discussion, yet we are seeing increasingly
closed door discussions, governments discuss planned laws with
corporate interests and international trade groups, then only open
it for public discussion once the law is largely already drafted and
only minor further modifications will be contemplated.
need to be given a greater say in how internet laws are written, at
the moment they are largely ordered around by governments who may
not fully understand the issues, often at the prompting of overseas
corporate interests with undisclosed agendas.
corporations may be able to exert particular influence outside of
traditional legal channels – e.g. Apple could potentially censor
the internet content available to iPad users at its own discretion
without having to tell anyone what it is doing, or breaking any
Quality of the law
is the issue.