Principles for a better Web

By Colin Maclay, Acting Executive Director, and Caroline Nolan, Research Associate, Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard UniversityMore than one billion people are online, with three times that amount connected via mobile devices, just one indication of how integrated digital technologies are with lives and livelihoods around the globe. While governments have for the most part encouraged these developments, they are increasingly aware of technology’s capacity to disrupt existing power structures and accordingly ambivalent. As governments seek to control information and online activities, private actors – information and communication technology (ICT) firms in particular – are increasingly called upon to assist in those efforts.Many of us mistakenly assume that Internet governance doesn’t touch us, and maybe it doesn’t – what expression is allowed on the Net and whether your personal information is shared with law enforcement is often governed less by law and more by practice. As Jonathan Zittrain and John Palfrey have long argued, companies providing technology services are important Internet points of control and are under great pressure to comply with local laws and practices, which can be at odds with international standards, corporate values, and social norms.

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