Governance project

Another concept distinguishes between the “narrow” and the “broad approach”. The first one solely concerns the infrastructure of internet such as Internet Protocal (IP) adresses or Domain name system (DNS). The second one goes beyond that of the infrastructural issues and points out other legal, economic and socio-cultural issues. But these two approaches are not completely separated, since a technology is not neutral. The “DNS war” can illustrate that point[8].

A DNS is a service that translates a computer's domain name (e. g. the web address www. leeds. ac. uk) into an IP address that is the identifier for a computer on a network. Because both domain name and IP address must be unique, there is a need of regulation to assign them. Therefore, the US National Science Foundation decided to call on the private sector in 1994 and subcontracted the management of the DNS to the company Network Solutions.

Since this monopoly was both against the anti-trust legislation and the development of the technology market, the agreement was amended to allow other companies called “registrars” to enter the DNS business[9]. But then the problem of a regulation at the end still remain, and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was established by the US government in 1998 with the objectives of coordinating the allocation process and ensuring the stability of the system[10].

What is also interesting is the principles of “private, bottom-up coordination”, “Multi-stakeholder model” and “consensus-driven” under which the ICANN operates[11]. The first principle is made to ensure that the coordinating process is “flexible and able to move rapidly enough to meet the changing needs of the Internet” [12] whereas the broad representation system of a board of directors and volunteer working groups includes many public and private interests. Finally, another distinction is one between the “Old-Real” and the “New-Cyber” approach.

The former, also called “new wine in old bottles” argues that internet is just another device no different than any of the previously existing ones (e. g. radio, telephone). This way, the existing laws concerning information and communication can be applied without a deep-reaching legislation reform. One the other hand, the “new-cyber” approach or “new wine in new bottles” argues that internet is a brand new device requiring a fundamentally different legislation.

Strangely, the “new approach” is part of the past, at least in its form of “rough consensus and running code” [13] which was the principle enhanced by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in the late 1980’s to make a decision resolving a particular problem on internet. The consensus operates differently than a democratic vote in a legislature since it requires a “dominant view” representing a “sense of agreement” rather than a volume (51% for a democratic vote)[14].

It was believed that because cyberspace is not the real world, it requires a new form of governance. But if we go back to the example of ICANN, we can see that even if this approach was predominant with the “consensus-driven” principle, it is no longer the case since the Amendment 5 of 2002[15] and the new Memorandum of Understanding of 2006[16] which both strengthened the role of governments by giving to the Department of Commerce an ultimate and unilateral oversight.

One key here is that the view on internet governance changed after 9/11 : the priority of “cyberdemocracy” was replaced with the “cybersecurity”[17]. Even if the early days of internet were governed by the will of a new kind of governance independent of the sovereign states based on a misconception of the cyberspace, the approach is from now on centered on the collaboration of governments and market participants. Indeed, the reality of the emerging cybercriminality forced the governments and the market entities to build a real governance project of the cyberspace.