Multistakeholder Internet Governance

The rise of globalization and interconnectedness has had many implications for private and public society. In the beginning of the twentieth century, the concept of world governance emerged- a governance that was not done by one state but was done by all states working together. Instead of one nation controlling the others, this concept would mean that a power separate from the nations themselves would have the ultimate power. This concept eventually led to many regional and global organizations, the largest and arguably most powerful of which is the United Nations. While the UN is far from all-powerful, it represents a multistakeholder global governance: each member state has stake in the organization, as well as countless other groups and organizations.

The spread of the internet has increased globalization, but it too, in its global scope, presents the need for governance. According to Internet Society, a multistakeholder internet governance includes innovation, decentralized governance, and open and inclusive processes. When multiple stakeholders make decisions, more are accountable, making these decisions more sustainable and more likely to be followed.

The internet can connect people from all over the world. However, standards and expectations range from region to region. A site may be widely used in Canada while being censored in China. Rights and responsibilities overlap across borders, making it all the more important to have internet governance. From copyright laws to human trafficking sites, the global internet society must have a code of ethics at the very least.

The NETmundial Initiative (literally “World Net”) was one of the efforts to create a platform to discuss issues in internet governance. This initiative, as well as internet governance in general, was very controversial. Internet governance brings along with it the issue of surveillance and censoring, in a context where many consider the internet to be an integral human right. The internet can provide countless connections, economic opportunities, and accessibility for persons with disabilities who would not otherwise be able to participate in many things, but the internet also provides opportunities for people to commit crimes. A successful internet governance will have to determine the line between freedom of communication and criminal activity.