Corinne Kenwood / Sun Staff Photographer

Prof. Milton Mueller, public policy, Georgia Institute of Technology, speaks about cybersecurity.

September 15, 2016

Lecturer Depicts Conflict Between Government Interest, Global Internet Influence

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Thursday’s release of action movie Snowden should be accompanied by a deeper discussion of how extensively the government can control our access to the internet, according to Prof. Milton Mueller, public policy, Georgia Institute of Technology.

In a lecture in Gates Hall Wednesday, Mueller first focused on “fragmenting,” a term used to describe people’s lack of access to the internet. Because the definition of fragmenting is unclear, he said, a better word for defining the state’s role in the internet is “alignment.”

“The overriding phenomenon, the thing that causes concern, is not that there is blocking or filtering of internet content, but that the agent of blocking is the state,” he said. “The state is trying to make the functionality of the internet conform to [or align with] their jurisdictional boundaries.”

As an example of this phenomenon, he discussed the Pakistani government’s 2012 effort to block the country’s access to Youtube, which shut down the entire site for almost an hour. He called this interconnectivity is the main problem with trying to control something so globally connected.

Mueller added that some countries have considered increasing their internet jurisdiction by creating their own domain systems — an initiative he said was unlikely to be successful.

“Any distribution or any realignment of the domain name system would create massive incompatibilities,” he said. “What’s preventing that from happening is a network externality, which means that a network is more valuable the more people you can connect to.”

So what does Mueller think the solution is for reconciling the interests of states with a global network?

“I have this radical and crazy idea that you need some kind of conception of popular sovereignty in cybersecurity, something that goes beyond the nation state,” he said.