Citations (9)


Footnotes (430)



Cyberspace Self-Governance: A Skeptical View from Democratic Theory

Neil Weinstock Netanel

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

As published in California Law Review, Vol. 88, March 2000

The idea that cyberspace should be presumptively self-governing has resounded in thoughtful scholarship. It has also precipitated the recent, dramatic withdrawal of the United States government from significant portions of Internet administration and regulation. This Article critiques a central prong of the argument for cyberspace self-governance: the claim that a self-governing cyberspace would more fully realize liberal democratic ideals than does nation-state representative democracy. That "cyberian" claim, in turn, has two parallel components: first, that the Internet creates possibilities for "bottom-up private ordering" that are a superior form of liberal democracy, and second, that a truly liberal nation-state must grant considerable autonomy to cyberspace "communities." These claims of liberal perfectionism and community autonomy pose an intriguing challenge to traditional democratic theory. But I believe that they ultimately fail. I argue, indeed, that an untrammeled cyberspace would prove inimical to the ideals of liberal democracy. It would free majorities to trample upon minorities and would serve as a breeding ground for invidious status discrimination, narrow casting and mainstreaming content selection, systematic invasions of privacy, and gross inequalities in the distribution of basic requisites for citizenship in the information age. Accordingly, I argue, that selective state regulation of cyberspace is warranted to protect and promote liberal ideals. I maintain as well that in the absence of regulation by a democratic state, cyberians would be forced to try to invent a quasi-state institution to legislate and enforce meta-norms governing critical aspects of cyberspace organization and operation. Even if cyberians were successfully to establish such an institution, it would, at best, suffer from much the same democratic deficit as, according to cyberians, characterizes nation-state representative democracy.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 105

JEL Classification: K19

Open PDF in Browser Download This Paper

Date posted: August 27, 1999  

Suggested Citation

Netanel, Neil Weinstock, Cyberspace Self-Governance: A Skeptical View from Democratic Theory. As published in California Law Review, Vol. 88, March 2000. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=175828 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.175828

Contact Information

Neil Weinstock Netanel (Contact Author)
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )
385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States
Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 5,021
Downloads: 734
Download Rank: 22,021
Citations:  9
Footnotes:  430

© 2016 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollobot1 in 0.828 seconds