March 26, 2014

Who governs the internet?

This post was written by: Aston Bond Law Firm

Is Cyberspace literally above the law?

There are those who argue that cyberspace is a separate sovereign space where laws and governments do not apply.

“You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement

This quote was taken from John Perry Barlow’s article published in 1996. Known as a cyber-libertarian political activist, basically meaning he helps defend your rights in the digital world, he also co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation, their sole aim is to battle and defend digital freedom in the courts.

On the face of it people like John Perry Barlow are saints as they take into consideration privacy, freedom of speech and fair use of the internet, but have they crossed a virtual border? Stating that if an individual is in the virtual/digital environment they have no governing or corporeal body to regulate them is a tad farfetched, a world without any laws and regulations sounds like a plot in a Hollywood movie.

In all honestly we should all keep our feet well-grounded, as even though an individual may be surfing the internet and “visiting” cyberspace, they technically may not have even left their front room, as we are not mysteriously transported into cyberspace.  This means that if one was to use the internet for illegal or anti-social behaviour they are subject to the laws and regulations of the country they reside in.

The whole truth and nothing but the truth

The truth is that there is no governing body of the internet per se instead there are volunteer groups which consist of:

Internet Activities Board (IAB) – The technical body that oversees the development of the Internet suite of protocols.  Within this organisation it has two task forces, the IETF and IRTF, which are responsible for investigating a specific area.

Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) – Develops and maintains the Internet’s communication protocols. Addresses problems and coordinates new services. Appoints working groups to define standards, coordinate services between providers and performs the real work.

Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) – Looks into long-term research problems that could be critical in five to ten years.

In addition to these three bodies, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is seen as the technical coordination body for the Internet.

If there is no actual regulated body who governs the internet, a question must be raised. Can we regulate the actions of individuals in the digital environment at all?

Vinesh Patel, Paralegal