- Elgar European Law series
Chapter 1: Internet regulation in the European Union
The modern world has been subject to information and communication technology (ICT) penetration at an unprecedented level. The main aspect of this phenomenon has been the ability to distribute information and knowledge widely and at great speed. This is a phenomenon that predates our decade and even the last century. But the Internet, as its latest manifestation, is fundamentally different from a television transmission or a newspaper, neither in its purpose nor in its ability to reach audiences instantaneously but in its capacity to involve them as active participants. This active participation and its networking potential are unique to the Internet and a direct result of its architecture, which promises low costs, decentralization and anonymity. To maintain this liberating potential, prudent regulation is needed. At the beginning of the Internet’s history, however, it was believed that cyberspace cannot be regulated at all and ought to be left to its own means. We now know this not to be true, but we still do not know how to regulate it. The Internet attracts and empowers people but at the same time makes itself a target of control and a battleground of interests. On one hand, with its vast potential for information distribution, the Internet is often viewed by the general public only or primarily in light of its liberating potential. Regulation is here perceived as something restrictive that endangers and limits the acquired liberties. On the other, a different trend is emerging: the Internet is gaining a reputation as dangerous, morally dubious and difficult to control.
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