The pοwer to mediate: rethinking the Internet's Political Economy in the War Against Terror - draft paper presented at the Internet in Inteligent Societies Conference, the Chinese University of Honk Kong, July 2004

Abstract

During most of the past decade the Internet was approached as democracy's strongest ally particularly in the US and the EU; as it enters its second decade of commercial existence and in the aftermath of the burst of the dot.com bubble, political economy criticism has overshadowed such enthusiasm. The poor state of access to the Internet means that it cannot automatically restore communications power deficits globally or locally. The term digital divide was cynically coined by regulators in the US to pave the way to a more inclusive digital future.

Politics in the North America and W.Europe have however changed since these gloomy warnings were first voiced. The war against terror has been launched, anti-terrorist legislation and regulation has been past globally and locally. Before the war on terror, communications regulators and critics alike were concerned with the regulation of the infotelecommunications infrastructure and with the security of this infrastructure. As a result, regulatory approaches entirely disinterested in content have consolidated. This is particularly noteworthy in the case of the EU and the infamous “information society” since historically many member states promoted very content sensitive regulation. Most state actors slowly withdrew the stakes in the production of content or at least moved away from rigid regulations or anything that could be called “state censorship”. It seems that for a while nobody seemed to care as to what is “carried over” the information superhighway, or how one defines the term “information”. Policy was content blind reflecting a belief that markets are content blind. As long as content was copyrightable, nobody cared about its substance.

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