Mayors in Cyberspace: Lessons from the Netherlands Regarding the Role of Local Government in the Event of Digital Disturbance of the Public Order
4th International Conference on Public Policy (ICPP4) June 26-28, 2019 – Montréal
21 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2019
Date Written: June 4, 2019
This paper explores the role of local governance in the enforcement of digital security issues and the potential use of the local, physical and restricted administrative law by mayors. There is clearly a relationship between digitalization and local safety and security. Consider, for instance, the London riots of 2011 following the police shooting of Mark Duggan; violence and disorder was fueled by social media networks. The same holds true for aftermath of the shootings in Ferguson (USA) and Mitch Henriquez (the Netherlands). Other examples include hoaxes and online witch-hunts and the sharing of false news. Interventions based on administrative law and the prevention of disturbances may have benefits over using case law afterwards, when disturbances of the public order have already occurred on the street. In many cases it is unclear who is responsible for such behavior, and for calls for unrest and interactions on the internet. This paper attempts to further this discussion by showing the tensions between the legal and practical issues involved (the law and practical ways to avert these disturbances) do not usually harmonise very well in approach and dealing with digital disturbances or threats to local public order and safety.
Recent advances in digitization have resulted in an increasing number of parties becoming involved in security issues. 'Security and digitization' is, after all, not restricted to cybercrime, but is also concerned with issues of surveillance and the maintenance of law and order, including online as well as offline public order. Government agencies need to decide which strategies to adopt in order to deal with such problems and issues brought about by digitization.
The study consists of a legal analysis of administrative law and interviews with 35 experts and 14 mayors in the Netherlands in order to investigate their views on the potential role of mayors in administrative law enforcement in cyberspace. The study shows that there are some bottlenecks in law enforcement and in the prevention of riots and social unrest and disturbances in public order. For instance, the online agitator is invariably located in another municipality or country than that where the riots or the unrest occur, and the relationship between the messages on social media, and the sharing and the consequences, are often unclear. It is also relevant to consider fundamental rights such as freedom of speech in most countries as potential constraints to a preventive approach. Different countries have organized their governments in different ways, but tensions between digital developments exist in all of them, particularly for local governance, provinces, countries, police and prosecutors, etc.
Both experts and mayors are divided in opinion about the future route for law enforcement in cyberspace. Some plead for an exclusive role for prosecution and criminal law, others for an important role for mayors using non-legal means to secure and protect public order in their municipalities.
Keywords: cyberspace, internet regulation, local governance, digital disturbances, public order and safety, administratieve law enforcement, cybersafety
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