Of the free internet and its discontents, who are many and powerful.
“Governments did not make the Internet,” writes cybersecurity strategist Klimburg, the program director at The Hague Center for Strategic Studies. Never mind that the backbone of the internet was in fact the creation of scientists working under the American government, the fact remains that entrepreneurs, cyberpioneers, techno-anarchists, hackers, and other such independent-minded spirits have been the chief engineers of a place where pretty much anything goes. Those days may be coming to an end, Klimburg warns, as governments and corporations seek increasingly to control the internet, both to monitor the behavior of users and to seize the broadcast capabilities of the medium to serve up state propaganda. The United States, writes the author, has long held that the internet is “a largely non-state domain” that works pretty well as it is, while such governments as Putin’s Russia believe that they should control their own portions of the Web, a position that China and much of the developing world also seems to hold—though, Klimburg notes, powers such as India and Brazil seem to be moving away from it, even as efforts are mounting in the U.S. to restrict online freedom. Given the “great cyber game” that is raging among state powers—witness the role of Russian hackers in recent elections outside Russia—and these efforts at control, the author foresees the possibility that much online activity may move to the “dark web,” where criminality and illegality may in turn corrupt the free internet. He argues that the present multistakeholder approach to internet governance is the best of all possible cyberworlds, and he recommends the formation of a kind of organization akin to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to represent these many constituencies while allowing for internet independence and a fully engaged fight against cyberinstability.
Klimburg delivers an urgent warning that civil libertarians and cybernauts alike will want to heed.