Piecemeal Measures Regulate Cyberspace

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It is a problem for the U.S. that many of the core concepts that guide internet policy date to the 1990s. One such concept is that the internet is a virtual alternative to the Westphalian state, without borders and where sovereignty does not apply. The problem with this concept is that it is demonstrably wrong. The internet is a physical construct. It depends on a physical infrastructure located within national territories. The speed of data movement gives the illusion that there are no borders, but they exist, defined by this physical structure, and nations have discovered that they can control their borders in cyberspace – hence sovereignty.

The UN General Assembly endorsed the conclusion of the 2013 Report of the UN’s Group of Government Experts that international law, the UN Charter, and national sovereignty apply to cyberspace, and with it, all the rights and responsibilities accorded to national governments. This changed the politics of the internet. There is a reluctance to acknowledge this change in the internet’s ancient regime, and while the demise of the Westphalian state is frequently announced, most countries seem unaware of this and impose regulations on cyberspace when they think regulation is necessary.

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