While preparing for the Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul this year, next week, one cannot avoid reading various discussions and even seeing boycotting of the conference because of the recent national performances of relevant and immediate authorities, in the form of “site blockage” (aka DNS poisoning). There are basically a couple of ways to see what is that all about. Some say that it’s about censorship or indication of raising authoritarianism or even conservatism; but please don’t jump too quickly to this bold statement.
People can still easily say and browse as they want, unless their finance is blocked to travel far and wide. Other people say that it’s a legitimate right of the legacy governments to rise and implement classical geographical barriers in the cyberspace, even their requirement, and hence they should guard their firewalls as they are allowed to guard the roads to and from or in any corner they wish to do so. So far so good, but this statement ignores the fact that IP space is by nature incompatible with the concept of territorial integrity. Many legacy authorities have tried to impose such restrictions either technically or by raising some legislation, but mostly they have failed, not because they were not competent, but because of the incompatibility of the concepts and the surrounding tendencies in the world politics to resist any territorial structures. So, this point won't seem that much of a “whole story” either.
Then what is this all about? If legacy governments are not going bad (and it might be naive to assume all of them are), but at the same time they won’t seem to be valid either, there must be some reason for them to behave as they do. I once heard a recent statement from a young layman in one of those situations, and his sincere comment was that they are afraid of their government’s future actions and direct of development. I tried to encourage him to not to be afraid, as things are surely changing and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but what I did not say to him was that the whole idea of performances like these carries with them the essence to introduce fear, to perform authority and to claim the role of the sovereign. Hence reacting to these performances with increased fear of what they might do next, is exactly what is presumed to happen, and hence, to resist, people should develop means to not to be afraid, to be immune to the sometimes surreal modern performances of power. Still, he did also fall to the trap of assuming the legacy governments and institutions to continue and exist to the distant future with their newly acquired DNS poisoning, Web blocking for the masses, capabilities. In this sense the capability performance has been successful, as they have been able to demonstrate to at least one person, and cause strong obedience on him, that they can take away his fun parts; Facebook, booze and whatever they want. However what happens if he would not fear? What if he would realise that there is no spoon?
While this whole conference on Internet Governance is firmly fixed to the yardsticks of the United Nations, or rather not so united, there is at the same time also growing awareness around the Internet Ungovernance movement. One can only hold and see how the two will interact. As applied from Ulrich Beck, old governments are not failing because they were not “good”, but only because they are so deeply tied to the legacy conception of territoriality, which issue the other modern entities might not share to the same extent and hence be more effective.
Kristo Helasvuo, Guest Author.