Internet governance is
|“||the development and application by Governments, the private sector, and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet.||”|
|“||describe[s] not just the technical management and coordination of the Internet itself (which is sometimes called 'narrow Internet governance'), but also the relationship between the Internet and mainstream public policy issues that are affected by it (sometimes called 'broad Internet governance').||”|
The United Nations, at the December 2003 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), debated and agreed to study the issue of how to achieve greater international involvement in the governance of the Internet and the domain name system in particular. The study was conducted by the UN’s Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG). On July 14, 2005, the WGIG released its report, stating that no single government should have a preeminent role in relation to international Internet governance, calling for further internationalization of Internet governance, and proposing the creation of a new global forum for Internet stakeholders.
Four possible models were put forth, including two involving the creation of new Internet governance bodies linked to the UN. Under three of the four models, ICANN would either be supplanted or made accountable to a higher intergovernmental body. The report’s conclusions were scheduled to be considered during the second phase of the WSIS to be held in Tunis in November 2005. U.S. officials stated their opposition to transferring control and administration of the domain name system from ICANN to any international body. Similarly, the 109th Congress expressed its support for maintaining U.S. control over ICANN (H. Con. Res. 268 and S. Res. 323).
The European Union (EU) initially supported the U.S. position. However, during September 2005 preparatory meetings, the EU seemingly shifted its support towards an approach which favored an enhanced international role in governing the Internet. Conflict at the WSIS Tunis Summit over control of the domain name system was averted by the announcement, on November 15, 2005, of an Internet governance agreement between the U.S., the EU, and over 100 other nations. Under this agreement, ICANN and the U.S. will remain in control of the domain name system.
A new international group under the auspices of the UN was formed — the Internet Governance Forum — which will provide an ongoing forum for all stakeholders (both governments and nongovernmental groups) to discuss and debate Internet policy issues. The Internet Governance Forum is slated to run for five years and will not have binding authority.
Computers attached to the Internet are subject to the laws and policies of the nation and network where they are physically located, although users from anywhere in the world may be able to post or retrieve information from any particular accessible computer. This complicates Internet governance, as Internet users may be able to use the network to retrieve or post information, such as hate speech, or perform an activity, such as gambling, which is illegal where they are physically located, but not illegal in the country where the computer they are accessing is located.
- United Nations, Working Group on Internet Governance, Tunis Agenda, para. 34 (2005).
- At the Nexus of Cybersecurity and Public Policy: Some Basic Concepts and Issues, at 103.
- ICTs, the Internet and Sustainable Development: Towards a New Paradigm, at 6.