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Be Careful What You Ask For: Reconciling a Global Internet and Local Law



As the Internet becomes part of daily living rather than a place to visit, its rough edges are smoothed and its extremes tamed by sovereigns wanting to protect consumers, prevent network resource abuse, and eliminate speech deemed harmful. The tools are now within reach to permit sovereigns with competing rulesets to play down their differences - whether by countenancing global privatization of some Internet governance issues through organizations like ICANN, coming to new international agreements on substance and procedure to reduce the friction caused by transborder data flows, or by a "live and let live" set of localization technologies to shape the Internet to suit the respective societies it touches.

These shifts will help ease the tension between the certitudes that the Internet is global, while the imposition of regulation is almost always local. Such cures for the longstanding dilemmas of Internet jurisdiction and governance eliminate the originally cherished aspects of a global Internet as well - urging us to consider the iatrogenic effects of bulldozing online activity to conform more to the boundaries of the physical world that preceded it, and explaining why, in the United States and elsewhere, there are contradictory policies emerging about the Internet's future.