Research Handbook on Governance of the Internet
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Research Handbook on Governance of the Internet

Edited by Ian Brown

The internet is now a key part of everyday life across the developed world, and growing rapidly across developing countries. This Handbook provides a comprehensive overview of the latest research on internet governance, written by the leading scholars in the field.
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Chapter 5: The legitimacy and accountability of the internet’s governing institutions

Rolf H. Weber


Internet governance tackles central questions such as: who rules the internet, in whose interest, by which mechanisms and for which purposes? These questions are of importance since internet regulations do not follow the traditional pattern pursuing an approach strictly distinguishing the state (public law) from the society (civil law) (Weber/Grosz 2007, pp. 119– 20). Moreover, private organizations such as the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet Society (ISOC) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) play a crucial role in the governance structures of the internet. Being the organizational home for entities responsible for internet infrastructure standards, including the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the non-profit, non-governmental membership society ISOC’s aim is to promote the development, availability and the associated technologies of the internet (Grosz 2009a, p. 621). Following its mission to lead the internet to its full potential the W3C as the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web is engaged in the development of common technical Web standards and promotes the harmonization of the Web’s technologies (Grosz 2009b, p. 633). Since legitimacy and accountability problems of ISOC and W3C are of little importance, the chapter focuses on ICANN as the most important and most debated organization.

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