For the last two decades, states have fought over the national and international governance of the internet. Eventually, many courts and legislators have resorted to far-reaching claims to regulatory authority, creating a climate of legal uncertainty and a high (albeit often theoretical) risk of international liability for users who contribute to global internet projects such as Wikipedia.
More recently, though, a second challenge has become apparent: the communities that have formed through these projects (and on many other online platforms) are not only inherently international, they are also effectively self-regulated. Most of the disputes arising in the context of Wikipedia and its sister projects are not resolved through state courts that apply national law but through complaints procedures and dispute-resolution mechanisms that are community-driven and apply privately-drafted rules and codes of conduct.
While this development is a major cause of concern for national regulators, it can also be seen as an opportunity to overcome the perennial disconnect between local regulation and global internet projects. But in order to use this potential and offer a legitimate alternative to public regulation, we need to work hard to improve the ways in which we solve conflicts within our community – as well as conflicts with others who are affected by our work. We need to be more transparent about the reasons behind our rules, more open-minded about different legal concepts (such as different approaches to privacy and data protection), and, I argue, generally move away from ‰Û÷risk of enforcement‰Ûª to a more positive justification of our rules and policies.
Wikipedia and its sister projects have the potential, if not the vocation, to become a positive example of community self-governance. This talk aims to highlight how we can bridge the gap between local regulation and the self-governance of global internet projects.
My aim for the session is twofold. First, I want to create awareness for the complicated legal framework in which Wikipedia and its sister projects operate on an international level. Second, I want to spark a discussion about how as a community, we can react to this challenge and become a positive example of legitimate self-governance.