Internet Governance Project - Public


Internet Governance Forum
Internet Governance Forum


Dec 20 2017

Content Regulation and Private Ordering in Internet Governance Institutions

Private ordering is common in the field of Internet governance, cybersecurity, and cybercrime. Private ordering refers to governance by means of contracts, markets, or voluntary cooperative networks of non-state actors. The Internet relies heavily on private ordering because it is difficult for territorial governments to regulate effectively by traditional methods of intervention.

Private ordering is used in Internet governance institutions such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN implements policies through contractual agreements and develops policies via a multistakeholder process rooted in non-state actors. Nevertheless, ICANN’s control of the root of the Domain Name System (DNS) creates a centralized “choke point” where control over website content and Internet expression can be exerted by regulating domain name registries and registrars (for instance, by taking down domains or withdrawing licenses to register names). Most stakeholders believe that ICANN’s authority to coordinate and make policy for the DNS should not be leveraged to make ICANN a content regulator on the Internet.

As part of ICANN’s reform process, a new mission statement was adopted which expressly forbids ICANN from engaging in content regulation. Some interest groups, however, often put pressure on ICANN to use its power over domains to become an Internet regulator. Most notably, this pressure comes from copyright and trademark interests, law enforcement agencies, and some governments.

This workshop will address the following issues:

  • How do ICANN’s policies affect free expression on the Internet?
  • When is ICANN a “private actor” able to exert control through private contracts, and when is it more like a public regulator that should be subject to free expression protections?
  • What are the dangers for Internet governance institutions, platforms, and the broader Internet governance ecosystem if they step into content regulation?
  • What are the differences between policies and frameworks for addressing DNS abuse related to technical threats and content regulation?
  • What solutions can the multistakeholder community put forward to prevent Internet governance organizations from extending their technical coordination powers into content regulation?

Find more information here:
Remote participation will be available.