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The Internet and Regulation

Internet freedom often necessitates oversight

Abstract The Internet was created in a culture of collaboration and distributed decision-making. With organization behemoths co-existing with granularity, has the Internet lost this collaborative culture? Ownership of data, of domain names and control over the flow of content in the entertainment industry (net neutrality) have become central issues in the digital economy. The concern with behemoths is not pricing power but rather the power to shape ideas by controlling content. Who curates and regulates global content with a view to fairness and balance? While social media are part of this larger picture the trajectory from cause to effect is ambiguous - there is no individual directing the show, only computer code. Virtual space is a shared resource whose free consumption necessitates governance of this commons.

Keywords Data brokers • Domain names • Net neutrality • Social media as gatekeepers

The Internet was created in a culture ofcollaboration and distributed decision making. Paul Baran published the idea in 1960 that “there should be no main hub that controlled all the switching and routing... control should be completely distributed” [23]. Information would be broken down into identical sized packets and transmitted across the network such that every node had equal power to channel the packets and that no central authority could

© The Author(s) 2017 133

S. Bhatt, How Digital Communication Technology Shapes Markets,

Palgrave Advances in the Economics of Innovation and Technology,

DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-47250-8_8

dominate the system. Well before that, the most fundamental discovery of the Internet was the transistor in 1949 and it was created from an open collaboration between two scientists in

an environment where they could walk down a long corridor and bump into experts who could manipulate the impurities in germanium, or be in a study group populated by people who understood the quantum-mechanical explanations of surface states or sit in a cafeteria with engineers who knew all the tricks for transmitting phone signals over long distances. [23]

With OB co-existing with granularity, has the Internet lost this collaborative culture? Many of the scientists associated with the early development of the Internet were couched in the anti-war and antiestablishment culture of the 1960s. The culture was one where creativity and community were synchronized, culminating in the publication of the famous Whole Earth Catalog by counter-culture activist, and cyber culture promoter, Stewart Brand in 1968. The first network connection, the ARPANET, was made in October 29, 1968 between a computer at UCLA and one at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in a spirit of open source development of software.1 Was the free, open and innovative Internet simply an isolated episode in the development of global communications [23]?

John Parry Barlow, former lyricist of the Grateful Dead, and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argued that for cyberspace, it was “not just that government would not regulate cyberspace - it was that government could not regulate cyberspace. Cyberspace was, by nature, unavoidably free” [18]. This notion of a libertarian state that would be self-ordered is very suggestive of the trend towards cooperation that we are witnessing today.

This chapter asks what core values of the Internet need protection and what are the appropriate institutions that can implement this? We will first consider ownership rights over the massive data collected in cyberspace. Virtual space is a shared resource so there is the problem of governance of the commons, of digital space. Who defines and enforces the rules that govern the space of digital technology? The data that we create by interacting in digital space is public property, so who has governance rights over this BD? This question is separate from that of privacy, particularly in the binary world, since we may have anonymity until we interact, but once we conduct business we have exposed that transaction to all forms of data collection.

Related to the idea of data as public property, is the question of location and address in cyberspace. While the early history of the Internet was written by two dynasties, hackers and university researchers, the assignment of virtual addresses today has entered the realm of business.

Finally, who regulates and curates global content with a view to fairness and balance? How do we address the concentration of economic power in the hands of OB - the big 10: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Microsoft, Salesforce, eBay, Starbucks, Priceline? The more complex world of the Internet in 2016 is different from the simpler one of 1968 and self-regulation may be insufficient to address complex national security concerns. I focus on the issue of concentration of power and the narrowing of our choices that this could imply. Basically, do OB generate the benefits of a free market economy - innovation and choice? If we impose restrictive legislation are we impeding the incentive structure for startups or are we creating a more nurturing environment for new firms?

 
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