(2021). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. 2404
38 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2021 Last revised: 30 Sep 2021
Date Written: August 12, 2021
Digital sovereignty—the exercise of control over the internet—is the ambition of the world’s leaders, from Australia to Zimbabwe, a bulwark against both foreign state and foreign corporation. Governments have resoundingly answered first-generation internet law questions of who if anyone should regulate the internet—they all will. We now confront second generation questions—not whether, but how to regulate the internet. We argue that digital sovereignty is simultaneously a necessary incident of democratic governance and democracy’s dreaded antagonist. As international law scholar Louis Henkin taught us, sovereignty can insulate a government’s worst ills from foreign intrusion. Assertions of digital sovereignty, in particular, are often double-edged—useful both to protect citizens and to control them. Digital sovereignty can magnify the government’s powers by making legible behaviors that were previously invisible to the state. Thus, the same rule can be used to safeguard or repress--a feature that legislators across the Global North and South should anticipate by careful checks and balances.
Keywords: data sovereignty, digital sovereignty, sovereignty, internet governance, internet freedom, extraterritoriality
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