Landing : Athabascau University

Jay Smith

Last updated March 31, 2013 - 1:36pm by Mark A. McCutcheon

Jay Smith, Professor of Political Science, Athabasca U

"The Internet and Democratic Citizenship - The Dark Shadow"

Abstract: In the wake of the Arab Spring of 2011, the Indignados and Occupy movements, there has been an almost celebratory tone about the emancipatory and democratic potential of the Internet. This paper adds a word of caution to the above arguing that we may be entering a new era of state and international governance of the Internet, an era that may see Net freedoms increasingly limited. Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information stated in February 2010 “’leaving the Internet alone’ has been the nation’s Internet policy” but “that was then and this is now. ”

More rules restricting Internet usage are coming and the United States is not alone in this regard. This new emphasis is not on democracy but on risks and threats, for example, to commerce (intellectual property), to children (pornography), to unwanted intruders (hackers, ie, “crackers”). Drawing on Foucault I discuss how risks and threats are socially produced and subject to surveillance, discipline and control through mechanisms of the state and international governance. Yet, as Foucault also argues, “where there is power, there is resistance”, a resistance that is networked, based in civil society, transnational in character, and, increasingly, effective.