Handbook of Digital Politics
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Handbook of Digital Politics

Edited by Stephen Coleman and Deen Freelon

It would be difficult to imagine how a development as world-changing as the emergence of the Internet could have taken place without having some impact upon the ways in which politics is expressed, conducted, depicted and reflected upon. The Handbook of Digital Politics explores this impact in a series of chapters written by some of the world's leading Internet researchers. This volume is a must-read for students, researchers and practitioners interested in the changing landscape of political communication.
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Chapter 21: Internet governance, rights and democratic legitimacy

Giles Moss


This chapter charts the development of internet governance, describing how early libertarian views of the internet as an ungovernable space have given way to accounts that demonstrate the increased control that states and private corporations exercise over the internet. As such, the most important question today is not whether the internet can be governed, but how it should be governed, and in whose interests, and with what values. Normative debates about internet governance are most often discussed in terms of individual ‘rights’. While the language of rights is shared among the actors involved in internet governance, there is significant disagreement about the meaning of rights, the balance to be struck when they conflict, and the question of how they are best realized in practice. Drawing on theories of deliberative democracy, the chapter argues that rights are important in providing a shared normative vocabulary for internet governance at national and global level, but deliberative-democratic processes are required in order to translate and legitimate these rights in particular political contexts. Without such democratic procedures, internet governance will be beset by legitimation problems.

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