The Global Governance of the Internet
in Duncan Snidal & Michael N. Barnnett (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of International Institutions (OUP, Forthcoming 2023)
19 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2022 Last revised: 18 Oct 2022
Date Written: August 22, 2022
This essay surveys Internet governance as an international institution. We focus on three key aspects of information and communication technologies. First, we highlight how, unlike natural commons such as sea or space, digital governance involves a socio-technical system with a man-made architecture reflecting particular and contingent technological choices. Second, we explore how private actors historically played a significant role in making such choices, leading to the rise of existing “multistakeholder” governance frameworks. Third, we examine how these multistakeholder structures favored by the U.S. and its technology companies have come under increasing pressure from multilateral competitors, particularly those championed by China under the banner of “internet sovereignty,” as well as more modest efforts by the European Union to employ an approach akin to “embedded liberalism” for digital governance. The future of the Internet turns on how what we term these Californian, Chinese, and Carolingian visions of Internet governance compete, evolve, and interact. Thus, this essay characterizes Internet governance as a heterogenous, dynamic, multi-layered set of principles, regimes and institutions—a regime complex—that not only governs cyberspace today, but has adapted and transformed along pathways that may serve as signposts for international institutions that regulate other global governance challenges.
Keywords: cyberspace, internet, internet governance, digital governance, multilateralism, multistakeholder, 'splinternet', regime complex
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation