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The Libertarian Origins of Cybercrime: Unintended Side-Effects of a Political Utopia

London School of Economics Discussion Paper No. 62

27 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2010 Last revised: 4 Jul 2014

Jeanette Hofmann

Social Science Research Centre Berlin; Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society

Date Written: April 1, 2010

Abstract

Cybercrime and its potential ramifications exemplify ‘one of those things that nobody wants’ (Popper 1963). From today's perspective it would have been easy to foresee and at least partly prevent the mischief of cybercrime. One therefore wonders what early developers and users of the Internet actually envisioned, and how malpractices such as spreading damaging viruses relate to these visions. This essay approaches this question by interpreting cybercrime as an unintended consequence of the utopian dreams that flourished during the early days of the Internet. This essay approaches this question by linking the occurrence of cybercrime to the early days of the Internet's development. It explores the dominant orientations of two groups, the engineering community which developed the Internet and the first generation of academic users, both of which largely shaped the public understanding of the socio-technical constitution of the Internet around the time when spam and viruses became a common issue in the late 1990s. In itself a highly innovative activity, cybercrime can be seen as an ironic counterpart to the expectations of an egalitarian cyberspace whose technical and social norms condemned discrimination against any type of applications and uses.

Keywords: Internet, cybercrime, unintended consequences, self-regulation

Suggested Citation

Hofmann, Jeanette, The Libertarian Origins of Cybercrime: Unintended Side-Effects of a Political Utopia (April 1, 2010). London School of Economics Discussion Paper No. 62. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1710773

Jeanette Hofmann (Contact Author)

Social Science Research Centre Berlin ( email )

Berlin, 10785
Germany

Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society ( email )

Bebelplatz 1 | 10099
Berlin
Germany

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