Future of the internet under threat from ‘legal arms race’ between jurisdictions

Future of the internet under threat from 'legal arms race' between jurisdictions

The future of the internet is under threat from a “legal arms race” between jurisdictions unilaterally introducing quick-fix measures to address regulatory challenges, a landmark report has warned.

Greater international cooperation is required to tackle issues including online extremism, data privacy breaches, misinformation, cybercrime and high barriers to entry for online businesses, according to the new report from the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network.

Although there are a growing number of public and private regulatory initiatives around the world to address these issues, the report warns they are often uncoordinated and designed under the pressure of urgency, leading to competing or conflicting policies and court decisions.

The lack of legal interoperability is creating high levels of legal uncertainty and generating distrust among internet users, who cannot know which rules on the cross-border internet apply, it adds.

The Global Status Report 2019, launched at a major UN-backed meeting in Berlin today, includes a survey of over 150 key stakeholders, including sates, internet companies, technical operators, civil society, academia and international organisations from five continents.

Of the surveyed stakeholders, 79 per cent consider that there is insufficient international coordination and coherence to address cross-border legal challenges on the internet, and 95 per cent agree that cross-border legal challenges on the internet will become increasingly acute in the next three years.

Only 15 per cent believe that we already have the right institutions to address these challenges.

Bertrand de La Chapelle, executive director and co-founder of the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network, said: “We are facing an institutional challenge: makeshift policy measures do not address problems in a coherent and sustainable manner.

“Stakeholders must develop new ways to coordinate to address their common challenges. We collectively need to move beyond governance bricolage.”

Professor Dr Dan Svantesson, author of the report, added: “The report is a first-of-its-kind resource for evidence-based policy making. It illustrates the sheer scale of uncoordinated policy initiatives and the impact this is having on our ability to address cross-border legal challenges on the internet.”

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