Elgar Law, Technology and Society series
Edited by Sean A. Pager and Adam Candeub
Chapter 6: Timid Liberalism: A Critique of the Process-Oriented Norms for Internet Blocking
Milton Mueller* 6.1 INTRODUCTION The Internet made a major contribution to global society by disrupting the regulation of media content by nation-states. It took the libertarian principle of “absence of prior restraint” and globalized it: no one had to ask for permission, or be licensed, to make their ideas and publications globally accessible. Open access took states by surprise. The explosion of ideas, services and expression associated with the Internet’s growth in the 1990s happened because states weren’t prepared for it and because states weren’t in charge. Yet even if many of us accept the value of this regulatory breakdown, certain kinds of expression are still considered taboo, and public authorities want to censor them. The flat, global nature of Internet access, and the ease with which content can be created and posted in any jurisdiction, mean that effective prosecution and removal of illegal content can no longer be restricted to one territory.1 Thus, there is a growing trend for national governments to block access to websites.2 This chapter is intended to contribute to an argument against all blocking of Internet content. It focuses in particular on a new kind of rationale for internet blocking: what I call the “process-oriented approach.” This argument, which has been put forward most systematically by legal * This is an excerpt and adaptation of Chapter 9 in my new book Networks and States: The Global Politics of Internet Governance (MIT Press, 2010). 1 See Lili Levi and Kevin Saunders, Chapter 3 and 5 in this...
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