The COVID-Crisis as Catalyst for the Norm Development of Digital Sovereignty. Building Barriers or Improving Digital Policies?

Johannes Thumfart: The Covid-crisis as catalyst for the norm development of digital sovereignty. Building barriers or improving digital policies?, to be published in: CPDP 2021: Enforcing Rights in a Changing World. Vol. 14. Edited by Dara Hallinan, Ronald Leenes and Paul De Hert

Posted: 2 Mar 2021 Last revised: 15 Jun 2021

See all articles by Johannes Thumfart

Johannes Thumfart

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) - LSTS, Interdisciplinary Research Group on Law Science Technology & Society

Date Written: January 29, 2021

Abstract

This contribution examines the impact of the COVID-crisis on the norm development process of digital sovereignty in China, the EU, the US and Russia, investigating concepts such as digital sovereignty, technological sovereignty, internet sovereignty, data sovereignty, souveraineté numérique, digitale Souveränität, 网络主权 (“network sovereignty“), 信息主权 (“information sovereignty”) and Суверенный интернет (“sovereign internet“). It develops an intellectual history of the norm development of digital sovereignty, roughly following Finnemore and Sikkink’s three stages model. The first phase of norm emergence lasts from the 1990s and the Patriot Act in 2001 to Russia’s laws on internet control in 2012. During this phase of the US’s largely uncontested digital hegemony, China is the prime norm entrepreneur of digital sovereignty, promoting 网络主权 (lit. “network sovereignty”). The second phase of norm cascade begins with the Snowden revelations in 2013. This phase is characterized by an increasingly multipolar order. During this phase, the EU adopts a notion of digital sovereignty with a focus on economic aspects. And Russia’s notion of Суверенный интернет (lit. “sovereign internet”) is becoming increasingly radicalized. In Russia and France, illiberal accounts of digital sovereignty are supported by Carl Schmitt’s geopolitical theories. From 2016 to 2020, the US and the EU undergo a phase of norm universalization. Triggered by Russia’s interference with the US general election and Brexit in 2016, these countries and regions become aware that their political systems are vulnerable to manipulation. The COVID-crisis initiates the fourth and last stage of the norm development cycle, the stage of internalization. Processes of digital sovereignty are increasingly implemented, respectively they emerge in a bottom-up manner, with civil society playing an increasingly important role. However, this turn also makes clear that digital sovereignty in liberal societies is strongly characterized, respectively limited by the power of the private sector and restrictions on governmental power, such as federalism.

Keywords: digital sovereignty, data sovereignty, sovereign internet, souveraineté numérique, norm development, Covid-crisis, Brexit, cyber sovereignty, information sovereignty

Suggested Citation

Thumfart, Johannes, The COVID-Crisis as Catalyst for the Norm Development of Digital Sovereignty. Building Barriers or Improving Digital Policies? (January 29, 2021). Johannes Thumfart: The Covid-crisis as catalyst for the norm development of digital sovereignty. Building barriers or improving digital policies?, to be published in: CPDP 2021: Enforcing Rights in a Changing World. Vol. 14. Edited by Dara Hallinan, Ronald Leenes and Paul De Hert, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3793530 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3793530

Johannes Thumfart (Contact Author)

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) - LSTS, Interdisciplinary Research Group on Law Science Technology & Society ( email )

Pleinlaan 2
http://www.vub.ac.be/
Brussels, 1050
Belgium

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