Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World
Is the Internet erasing national borders? Will the future of the Net be set by Internet engineers, rogue programmers, the United Nations, or powerful countries? Who's really in control of what's happening on the Net?
In this provocative new book, Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu tell the fascinating story of the Internet's challenge to governmental rule in the 1990s, and the ensuing battles with governments around the world. It's a book about the fate of one idea – that the Internet might liberate us forever from government, borders, and even our physical selves. We learn of Google's struggles with the French government and Yahoo's capitulation to the Chinese regime; of how the European Union sets privacy standards on the Net for the entire world; and of eBay's struggles with fraud and how it slowly learned to trust the FBI. In a decade of events the original vision is uprooted, as governments time and time again assert their power to direct the future of the Internet. The destiny of the Internet over the next decades, argue Goldsmith and Wu, will reflect the interests of powerful nations and the conflicts within and between them.
While acknowledging the many attractions of the earliest visions of the Internet, the authors describe the new order, and speaking to both its surprising virtues and unavoidable vices. Far from destroying the Internet, the experience of the last decade has led to a quiet rediscovery of some of the oldest functions and justifications for territorial government. While territorial governments have unavoidable problems, it has proven hard to replace what legitimacy governments have, and harder yet to replace the system of rule of law that controls the unchecked evils of anarchy. While the Net will change some of the ways that territorial states govern, it will not diminish the oldest and most fundamental roles of government and challenges of governance.
Well written and filled with fascinating examples, including colorful portraits of many key players in Internet history, this is a work that is bound to stir heated debate in the cyberspace community.
Oxford University Press
New York, NY
"Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu, two of America's leading scholars of cyberspace, have written an engaging, fluent first draft of Internet history.... Beautifully written and intricately argued, the book is likely to become a classic of Internet politics and policy."
—Patti Waldmeir, Los Angeles Times
"A timely look at the ways that governments make themselves felt in cyberspace. Goldsmith and Wu cover a range of controversies, from domain-name disputes to online poker and porn to political censorship. Their judgments are well worth attending."
—David Robinson, Wall Street Journal
"Goldsmith and Wu have written a concise, compact, and highly readable book canvassing more than their basic question of 'who controls the internet?' It is a sweeping review of all of the key concerns of internet history, lore and law over the last 20 years."
—Melbourne University Law Review
"In the 1990s the Internet was greeted as the New New Thing: It would erase national borders, give rise to communal societies that invented their own rules, undermine the power of governments. In this splendidly argued book, Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu explain why these early assumptions were mostly wrong: The Internet turns out to illustrate the enduring importance of Old Old Things, such as law and national power and business logic. By turns provocative and colorful, this is an essential read for anyone who cares about the relationship between technology and globalization."
—Sebastian Mallaby, Editorial Writer and Columnist, The Washington Post
"It is time that America learn an important lesson about the Internet—that however cyber the space is, it is also real, and subject to real space governments. This is the very best work to make this fundamental point. Goldsmith and Wu have made understandable and accessible an argument political culture should have realized a decade ago."
—Lawrence Lessig, author of Code and Free Culture
"Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu are among the most creative and provocative legal scholars of their generation. In this surprising, unsentimental, and ultimately optimistic book, they reject romantic abstractions about the globalizing and transformative power of the Internet. National laws, traditions, and customs are just as important in controlling cyberspace as they are in real space, they argue. And that's a good thing because decentralized control can encourage freedom, diversity, and self-determination. Combining realism with idealism, Who Controls the Internet? offers an adult manifesto for the future of freedom in an interconnected world."
—Jeffrey Rosen, author of The Naked Crowd
"Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu have written an informative, engaging and provocative book that will undoubtedly challenge most people's preconceptions of the Internet. This is the most important book about the politics of the Internet since Lawrence Lessig's Code."
—Daniel W. Drezner, University of Chicago and danieldrezner.com
"A major contribution to literature about the internet....an excellent addition to academic law libraries as well as other academic, firm, or large county libraries with collections that emphasize cyber law, intellectual property, digital copyright, and international law."
—Law Library Journal
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Goldsmith, Jack and Wu, Tim, "Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World" (2006). Books. 175.