Should the Internet Be Policed, and If So How?(1090 000)

Should the Internet Be Policed, and If So How?(1090 000)


Should the Internet be Policed, and if so how?(1090 000)

Should the Internet be Policed, and if so how?

Brett Catlin


RiverviewHigh School

Sarasota, Fl., USA

Subject Area: ITGS

Word Count: 3064


This paper seeks to evaluate the current situation of internet governance. Initially the reader is presented with arguments both in favor of internet governance and opposing it. With the need for internet policing being quite clearthe paperprovides background into the different types of cyber crimes.Following a brief examination of each cyber crime, the paper provides information into current policing models; each respective model is objectively evaluated. With proper background information provided the paper continues to present information thatwill allow the reader to form there own opinions on the social and ethical considerations of internet policing. Current internet policing initiatives are broken down into four key categories; (1) the companies providing internet connectivity commonly referred to as internet service providers, (2) state agencies not normally given the title of police, (3) typically terrestrial police organizations, (4) and finally the internet users themselves. Each category is then critiqued based on research and current internet trends. Once each policing possibility is individual presented they are evaluated collectively. The reader is presented with varying solutions, allowing for individual conclusion to be drawn, each solution is weighed based on the previous information regarding cyber crimes and possible policing initiatives. The end of the paper presents what I feel as the best policing solution, based on my research and the conclusions drawn in my paper.





Works Cited Page20


The accelerated growth of the internet has resulted in a global crisis of governance. The infant years of the internet were characterized by the widespread belief that government should stay out of internet governance. The prevailing belief was that self regulation driven in part by market forces would create standards for behavior on the net. Unfortunately, self regulation went to the wayside when the internet became mainstream. Self policing and governance has failed to address the growing number of cyber crimes, thus increasing impact to all facets of life. Even still, some individuals believe the internet should be free from regulation. With the continued growth of the internet the question must be asked whether it is time for serious regulation, and if in fact we have reached that point, then what is the best way to approach internet governance?

In any movement regarding additional regulation there will always be those strongly opposed, and of course those that are all for it. A gentleman by the name of John Perry Barlow published a book dealing with organized regulation on the internet entitled: Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.The entire focus of the book can be summarized in a single quote, “Governments of the industrial world, you weary giants of flesh and steel...on behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone…You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more than could be obtained by any of your impositions” (Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace).The unwritten codes Barlow speaks of are common courtesy’s that internet users abide by, often referred to as netiquette. For the decade or so before the internet became mainstream these unwritten laws served there purpose. Those individuals not exercising proper decorum where quickly exiled from the internet community and rarely caused any future problems. But with the rapid and sustained growth of the internet self regulation has become increasingly difficult and the stakes continue to grow, “Post-September 11th concerns about security in a networked world call into question the wisdom of keeping government off to the shoulder of the information highway” (Foreign Affairs, 2002).The increased activity on the internet has come coupled with an escalation in the number of cyber crimes. A recent interview with Len Hynds of the UK’s National High-Tech Crime Unit solidifies the exponential growth in cyber crimes. When asked to what extent high-tech crimes were increasing, his response was “This question is being asked worldwide and there are many studies we could turn to for guidance. In December, the National High-Tech Crime Unit, in conjunction with market research firm NOP, conducted a survey of the business community. It founds that 87% of respondents have suffered some kind of attack. The case at present is not so much, “will you become a victim?” but rather “when will you know that you are a victim?” Couple this with the irrefutable intelligence we have gathered that shows organized crime groups involvement in illicit activity and communications through the internet, and you are bound to conclude the threat is significant” (Computer Weekly, 2003). This research coupled with other indicators has lead government officials to question their nominal presence on the internet. In the past, world governments have tried to stay out of internet politics, as is illustrated through the creation of ICANN. In 1998 the U.S government created ICANN as a private, nonprofit organization to regulate the Internet’s domain name system, which delegates internet addresses, such as .COM’s. Although ICANN was created by the U.S government, not a single government official from any country sits on the organizations board. The only position any government plays is strictly in an advisory capacity. In recent years there has been a push coming from within ICANN to have governments play a larger role in the activity of the organization. Long time critic of ICANN, Michael Froomkin, is quoted as saying “It is strange that ICANN, which was created to save the internet from governments, is now turning to governments to save it from the internet”. This shift in ICANN represents a greater change in tide for the internet as a whole. Zoe Baird accurately depicts this shift in a recent article dealing with governmental influence on the net, “the internet has become a part of the mainstream, and therefore mainstream government institutions will be expected to step in to protect people from harm and encourage innovation” (Foreign Affairs, 2002). According to a recent study conducted by the Markle Foundation and Greenberg Quinian Rosner Research, those surveyed were overwhelmingly in support of the idea that “the government should develop rules to protect people when they are on the internet, even if it requires some regulation on the internet”. In fact, the ratio of those in favor of such regulation was two (2) to one (1) (Foreign Affairs, 2002). With 66% of internet users in favor of regulation, the question has shifted from one of whether or not to regulate, to how exactly one should approach this regulation.


With the understanding that there is a pressing need for regulation, one is confronted with a new problem, what do you regulate, and who is to regulate it? The internet has quite a variety of crimes, many of which were not present prior to the advent of the internet. Before one can even consider regulation options, he must address the different types of cyber crimes, and their impact. A categorical approach presents three (3) types of cyber crimes currently causing concern. They are trespass, obscenity, and theft, each of these groups illustrates a range of activities as opposed to actual offences (Wall, 1999).

An in depth look at each category of cyber crimes details the scope and penetration of the crimes. Cyber-trespass relates to the crossing of previously established boundaries into an area in which control has already been established. Cyber-trespassing can be as little as accidentally stumbling across private data, or as serious as all out information warfare. Somewhere in between the two fall the cyber-terrorist, spy and vandal. Cyber- terrorism is a growing problem in this post September 11th environment. In an age where all major public works are run by computers and networks the ability to inflict serious amounts of damage with as little as a computer and internet access is a serious problem. Cyber-obscenity refers to the trade of obscene materials within cyberspace. Cyber-obscenity is quite hard to define given the global nature of the internet, as what may be considered obscene to a Middle Eastern country is mundane to an American. Cyber-theft is arguably the most serious of the three cyber crimes. Cyber-theft covers a wide variety of activities. On one hand, there are crimes as traditional as fraudulent credit card use. On the other hand, there are crimes such as the theft of things that aren’t even definable as property, such as music and software. Prior to addressing the proper avenue regulation should take, it is important to keep in mind the key three forms of cyber-crimes, as each type is unique. Of course for any regulation to be successful it will have to address each type of cyber-crime.

When examining the regulation and policing of the internet, it is important to discern between those groups which seek to promote netiquette and responsible habits, and those that actually enforce any regulation that may be set forth. “The policy-making groups and legislators are at both a national level and at an international level in the case of the United Nations and the European Union” (Walker and Akdeniz, 1998). Both the United Nations and European Union have received their edict from the democratic process, giving them legitimacy. Additional groups which affect the policy making process are lobbying groups and those representing the special interests of a certain group or individual. There are a substantial numbers of groups and organizations seeking to establish policy on the internet, those actually attempting to enforce such mandates are few and far between. An in depth look at enforcement initiatives yields four different groups in which policing currently occurs. The companies providing internet connectivity commonly referred to as internet service providers, state agencies not normally given the title of police, typically terrestrial police organizations, and finally the internet users themselves (Sheptycki, 1998).

The internet service providers have a unique responsibility as policing agents. They have the ability to monitor both activity and content transferred over their networks. Often times, service providers simply choose to look the other way, in an effort to prevent lost revenue from the alienation of clients. The responsibility of the providers is currently in limbo, and has been for sometime. There is a push to hold companies responsible for the activity that occurs over their network, but this raises many social and economic issues. For example, how can a company the size of America On-Line monitor 25 million customers, and should that even be their responsibility? A warning sent to providers in the United Kingdom insinuates that providers could be held legally responsible for the activity of their subscribers, "in the absence of self-regulation, the police will inevitably move to act against service providers as well as the originators of illegal material" (Uhlig,1996). This approach is rather troubling, as packets of information typically travel through a multitude of internet routers, run by a large variety of companies. Quite frequently these packets will even traverse terrestrial borders. One initiative that has tried to help keep provider’s networks free of cyber-obscenity and cyber-theft is the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). This private organization brings illegal content and theft to the attention of service providers through an anonymous tip hotline. The Internet Watch Foundation is mainly focused on the activities in the United Kingdom. An initiative in the United States is that of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Both the RIAA and MPAA are private for profit companies which seek to eradicate piracy of intellectual property, their motives are not virtuous in the slightest sense of the word; whereas the IWF can be viewed as a public service. The RIAA and MPAA seek to protect the bottom lines of there members, and often notify internet service providers of offenders transferring pirated material over the respective ISP’s network. In almost all cases, service provides respond in a positive to way to prevent any legal repercussions or negative publicity. The internet service providers themselves have loosely organized in order to protect their collective interests, “…the Commercial Internet eXchange, the Pan-European Internet Service Providers’ Association (EuroISPA) and Internet Service Providers’ Consortium (mainly USA). However these organizations tend to be more involved with technical and commercial issues that are germane to ISPs than specifically with the self-policing of ISPs.” (Wall, 1999).

Agencies not typically associated with policing are playing an increasingly important role in the world of internet governance. China is one such country, in that they require individuals accessing the internet to go through filters which are regulated by a government run agency. Germany has also taken such initiatives with the development of the Internet Content Task Force. The legislation establishing the ICTF gives it the authority to require German ISP’s to block access to content it feels is inappropriate. The French government has also taken steps to setup a similar agency. In the United States, agencies such as the United States Postal Service and Securities and Exchange Commission have been instrumental in rare policing initiatives. Another government funded initiative taking place in the states is that of the Computer Emergency Response Team. Based at CarnegieMellonUniversity, its purpose is to prevent unauthorized access to the internet and sensitive information. In addition, CERT also performs any initial investigations. In recent years agencies not typically associated with policing initiatives are playing an important role in the development of policing initiatives; this is the case as most of these organizations are nonprofits, which makes their purpose seem quite benevolent.

State funded police organizations have the most ability to incite change, as they operate under the decree of the established government. As is typically for most public policing organizations, they are organized both nationally and locally. In the United States for example, there is the National Computer Crime Squad Unit; this is in addition to cyber units that operate with in local police forces. Local cyber crime units would typically deal with cases involving the use of computers and the internet, but would not deal with national issues such as; cyber terrorism or trafficking of child pornography. In addition to the national cyber crime units present in most countries, there are also international agencies which deal with cyber crimes. The most well known agency is probably Interpol.

The most prominent policing force at this point in time would still be the internet users themselves. Although, there has been a strong push towards more formal policing initiatives this body still plays a large role in the self policing model of the internet. Most significant self policing crusades are made by a group of individuals, and almost never spearheaded by a lone ranger. One such organization is the Cyber Angels, “a 1000 strong organization of net users who are also based, as their name suggests, along the Guardian Angel model. Divided into "Internet Safety Patrols", they operate in the four main areas of the Internet: Internet Relay Chat (IRC), Usenet, World Wide Web (WWW), and the net services provided by the largest US ISP, America Online (AOL). Their function is to actively promote, preserve and protect netiquette which "is the collection of common rules of polite conduct that govern our use of the Internet". Importantly, they claim the right to question what they encounter, and they argue that they have a civil, legal and human right to bring it to the attention of the proper authorities. Their mission statement says that they are dedicated to fighting crime on the Internet "where there are clear victims and/or at-risk users", they seek to protect children from online criminal abuse, they give support to online victims and advise them upon how to seek a remedy, seek out materials that will cause harm, fear, distress, inconvenience, offence or concern, "regardless of whether it is criminal or not". (Wall, 1999)


Half a decade ago the prevailing belief was that internet governance would work itself out and the self policing model would be effective, “a multi-tiered system of policing is already developing which is largely based upon self-regulation by its netizens and the Internet Service Providers” (Walker and Akdeniz, 1998). This belief may have had some legitimacy in 1998, but in the post September 11th world things are substantially different. The laissez faire belief also played into some scholar’s cyber policing ideals, “In the not too distant future it is highly likely that many of the undesirable behaviors that were described earlier will simply be worked out of the system” (Wall, 1999 ). Even 5 years ago certain individuals realized the ineffective nature of self governance in regards to cyberspace, “It (the internet) presently tends to operate upon a self-appointed mandate, but it currently lacks formal mechanisms of accountability. So, the principle of self-policing is inherently limited in scope and has a fairly low ceiling of efficacy, after which the various higher levels of policing have to be invoked in order to resolve the situations which self-regulation fails to resolve”(Walker, 1997). For today’s increasingly cyber oriented society I am led to believe that there needs to be a structured policing force, originating with publicly funded entities with private ties and links. Due to the diverse and unique nature of the internet the policing force should not follow typically terrestrial structures. Thus, there should be an international body established to oversee internet regulation, possibly headed by the United Nations. The continued growth of cyber crimes indicates that current international initiative, such as Interpol, simply are not getting the job done. One problem that may occur with this plan is that less developed nations may be left out or feel excluded. This problem should be quite minimal as there are already organizations trying to engage underprivileged countries, “Any organization that attempts to make global IT policy must encourage worldwide public participation. Some international policymaking bodies have begun trying to engage broader constituencies. The world Intellectual Property Organization, for example, has assisted stakeholders that have limited or no means of participation, providing them with training, information, equipment, and support.”(Foreign Affairs, 2002) This idea could also encounter problems due to the nature of civil liberties. Dependent on what region of the world you are from, accepted norms can vary quite widely. It would be impractical and unrealistic to expect a Middle Eastern country to accept the relative lax restrictions placed on Dutch content. Thus, there would have to be a mix between international governance and national governance to allow sovereign nations discretion on certain aspects of internet policing. Current and previous forms of self regulation are simply impractical, and could jeopardize the security of the world’s networks. This is true because the lack of a formal mandate. Current self policing initiatives and nonprofit crusades rarely have the power to enforce their decrees. This is precisely why any effective policing solution must be led by a government or a conglomeration of governments with established democratic mandates. Although it is imperative that governmental agencies be involved, they should certainly not be the only party enmeshed. A December 2002 article published by “Foreign Affairs” outlines and supports this premise quite well, “All three sectors = government, business, and nonprofits - from both developing and developed countries need to have seats at the table when internet policy is made. Democratic governments provide public accountability and possess enforcement and oversight capabilities; the private sector offers technological expertise and a driving culture of innovation; and nonprofit organizations, which are less bureaucratic then governments and less commercially motivated than businesses, provide there own expertise and inspire confidence though their focus on the public interest. No single institution or sector is equipped to handle the task on its own” (Foreign Affairs, 2002 ). Len Hynds of the United Kingdom’s National High-Tech Crime Unit makes a perfect summation, “It is only through collaboration that the true picture is painted”(Computer Weekly, 2003 ).. In the end collaboration is the key to the effective policing of cyber space.