Question: Why is the Internet Good?
Internet behavior is regulated:
- law: n/a?
"The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." Gilmore.
- architecture: protocols (IETF, W3C)
"Architecture is politics." Kapor.
- markets: consumption and production patterns
"The Internet isn't free. It just has an economy that makes no sense to
- social norms: the Internet culture, maxims, and memes
"Some jerk infected the Internet with an outright lie. It shows how easy it is to do
and how credulous people are." Vonnegut.
On the Net, the architecture, markets, and memes have generally opposed regulation by
Questions of Governance
- Does it regulate community action, or individual action?
- Does it regulate by central authority, or individual action?
- Does it implement its policies through coercive means, or individual acceptance?
- Does it abide by the interests of those that it governs?
The Internet could be characterized as anarchic:
"And, just to state the obvious, anarchy does not mean chaos nor do anarchists
seek to create chaos or disorder. Instead, we wish to create a society based upon
individual freedom and voluntary co-operation. In other words, order from the bottom up,
not disorder imposed from the top down by authorities." [A.1.1 What does
"anarchy" mean? Anarchist FAQ]
Real World Governance
- direct: threat of violence, fines (lack of revenue), and imprisonment from centralized
- indirect: direct mechanisms require third parties to create incentives or disincentives
against the governed.
- link: couple a related issue to a contentious issue. (Clipper 3 coupled digital
signatures (and their legitimacy) to key escrow policies, or linking strong
confidentiality to export controls.)
- choke: regulate those that are easy to go after. (CDA focussed on large ISPs,
and telco common carriers, rather than those creating the content.)
- gouge: regulate those that have deep pockets, often used with choke.
(Some have pushed to criminals the contributory infringement of copyright.)
- browbeat: use the bully pulpit to abash, or threaten further regulatory
"industry" doesn't self regulate, the government will get involved.)
- herd: selectively place and remove liability to channel policy towards a goal
without overtly setting the direction. ("Mandatory self regulation" and safe
harbor provisions are frequently proposed solutions to Internet content issues.)
- Governance is the act of regulation. It need not be through legal, centralized, or
- The establishment of social conventions on a mailing list is governance.
- The emergent direction of an open source software project is governance.
Internet Policy Formation (1/2)
"We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in
rough consensus and running code." Clark.
- Open Participation ("We")
- citizen engineer: citizen is a contributor to her space (lists, Web, MUD, FAQ)
- Consensus. ("... believe in rough consensus ...")
- is it good enough, does it merit moving on, are there show stoppers?
- No Kings ("... reject kings, presidents and voting.")
- consensus mediated by Elders, citizen engineers who built the space and institutions
- Running Code / Implementation ("... believe ... in running code.")
- all policy is tested by both its support and formulation through implementation
Internet Policy Formation (2/2)
- Coercion and Lack of Chokepoint
- there have been few formal institution that real world governments could coerce because
institutions of Internet policy are decentralized and non-coercive themselves!
- Limitation of Scope
- most policy is explicitly scoped, defined, and conservative in its application.
- Funded Mandates and Lack of Fiat
- any change requires work and resources, as tested by running code and implementation.
- Uniform Enforcement
- policies cannot be selectively enforced as they are in the real world.
- Veridical Policy
- "your clickstream is your vote."
- Policy Deprecation
- old policies fade into the background