Authority conflicts in internet governance: Liberals vs. sovereigntists?

We analyse conflicts over norms and institutions in internet governance. In this emerging field, dispute settlement is less institutionalised and conflicts take place at a foundational level. Internet governance features two competing spheres of authority characterised by fundamentally diverging social purposes: A more consolidated liberal sphere emphasises a limited role of the state, private and multistakeholder governance and freedom of speech. A sovereigntist challenger sphere emphasises state control, intergovernmentalism and push against the preponderance of Western institutions and private actors. We trace the activation and evolution of conflict between these spheres with regard to norms and institutions in four instances: the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12), the fifth session of the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts (UNGGE) and the Budapest Convention of the Council of Europe. We observe intense norm collisions, and strategic attempts at competitive regime creation and regime shifting towards intergovernmental structures by the sovereigntist sphere. Despite these aggressive attempts at creating new institutions and norms, the existing internet governance order is still in place. Hence, authority conflicts in global internet governance do not necessarily lead to fragmentation.

Flonk, Danielle, Markus Jachtenfuchs and Anke Obendiek. "Authority conflicts in internet governance: Liberals vs. sovereigntists?Global Constitutionalism, no. 9.2 (2020): 364-386.

Image: CC Christopher Burn, Source: Unsplash