Participation and Policy Positions in Global Internet Governance

Research question/goal: 

Much has been said and written about how the Internet is transforming politics. However, what are the politics of the Internet? The rise of the Internet confronts policy-makers with many contentious questions on matters such as data protection, copyrights and access to information, or net neutrality. This project investigates who participates in the diffuse, global arenas and spaces of internet governance, and seeks to understand variation in attendance and in the policies governments, businesses, civil society, and the “technical community” hope to realize for the internet.

The project assembles systematic and comprehensive data on the characteristics of the public and private actors participating in arenas such as the Internet Governance Forum and networks such as the Internet Engineering Task Force. The aim is to identify and study the sources of variation in participation between governments, businesses and civil society organizations, or the technical community. Furthermore, relying on automated text analysis, we use the speeches of Internet policy-makers to examine which topics they address and which positions they adopt on these topics. On this basis, this project provides a systematic map of the political space of global Internet governance.

Current stage: 

We have further expanded our data collection on participation in internet governance arenas. This allows us to analyse participation, authorship of so-called Internet Standards, and the occupation of key leadership positions from 1970 to 2020. In a paper published in the academic journal Global Policy, we show that the global technical collaboration in internet governance arenas has intensified and deepened steadily. We also observe an increasing concentration of key decision-making processes and positions on a small number of individual actors and private, mostly (but not exclusively) US-based companies. Chinese companies have also rapidly gained relevance since around 2005. We currently examine the causes and consequences of these developments in further detail.

Fact sheet

Funding: 
MZES
Duration: 
2017 to 2021
Status: 
in preparation
Data Sources: 
Documents (debate transcripts, meeting attendance records etc.)
Geographic Space: 
Global

Publications