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10 Principles and Conclusions For reasons outlined in Chapter 1, the committee came to the conclu sion early on that an exhaustive study of the impact of global networks on local values was not possible within the constraints of time, focus, and group composition under which it was operating. Nevertheless, in the course of the symposia it hosted and the discussions it held, the commit- tee was able to make some tentative judgments about some of the perti- nent issues that may serve as a starting point for later studies. 10.1 GOVERNMENTS AND THE EVOLUTION OF LOCAL VALUES As noted in Chapter 3, the values of a society are both formal and substantive. Because the world is increasingly diverse and interconnected, the committee believes that modern societies are better served by values that emphasize process and mutual respect than by those that seek to establish orthodoxies. Such an emphasis would give priority to formal values over substantive ones, though substantive values continue to have importance in defining a society or culture. Considerable historical evidence suggests that the values of a society change over time. Thus, rather than seeking an unchanging status quo in which social and cultural values are frozen for all time, governments of modern societies might well choose a role in guiding such evolution, while ensuring the existence of a healthy process that is conducive to such change. Governments could choose to intervene directly in the process. How- 224
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PRINCIPLES AND CONCLUSIONS 225 ever, direct government intervention is hard to legitimate in a liberal state where value formation is a social rather than a governmental process. In addition, a coherent plan is hard to design, especially if it seeks to change the overall balance among values. Governments may be able to implant a single new value in the minds of the citizens or erase a single older value, as totalitarian governments have shown. But affecting the processes as values evolve is a much more ambitious task, the pursuit of which would necessarily aim at controlling thought rather than action; such an attempt would be inappropriate for democratic societies striving to maintain the rule of law. A second approach is to regulate the mechanisms that affect the pro- cess. Consider, for example, the Internet as a possible influence on the evolution of local values. Governments do have a continuing and long- term role in ensuring that, on balance and in aggregate, communication informs rather than manipulates, and that it serves the purposes of demo- cratic society with respect to universal access and the balance of social and political power. Nevertheless, the Internet is not the only influence on the evolution of values; there is a multitude of other influences. Thus the Internet policy of government should be part of a larger strategy aimed at promoting the healthy evolution of a society's value set, in response to the many changes occurring as that society becomes better educated, more diverse, and more fully connected to the wider world around it. 10.2 DEMOCRACY Policy interventions to channel or direct the impact of global networks on democracy and political institutions are fraught with difficulty, and it would be naive to expect that political leaders would make neutral deci- sions where their own future power base is concerned. Even if that were not the case, it would still make sense to be cautious, even modest, about making explicit recommendations. The fact is that the structure and influ- ence of global networks are constantly evolving, and the normative goals that would presumably be served by such policy efforts continue, as they have been for centuries, to be in dispute. Nevertheless, or perhaps with these caveats in mind, the committee concludes the following: · To the extent that policymakers believe that action is necessary, their focus should be on outcomes rather than on tools or modalities. Thus they should seek to define what outcomes are desirable and undesirable rather than seek to regulate one particular instrumentality such as the Internet. The Internet is only one factor, albeit an important one, in global- ization and modernization.
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226 GLOBAL NETWORKS AND LOCAL VALUES · Networks such as the Internet (that is, systems capable of multi- node generation and receipt of information) and broadcast media (that is, few generators to many recipients) each have, in principle, advantages and disadvantages in promoting democratic goals. Network-based infor- mation resources are probably more effective in providing access to infor- mation and to political forums, and to the maintenance of a plurality of ideas, although network users have the ability to determine what infor- mation reaches them, thus limiting what ideas can reach people. Broad- cast media do a better job of integrating a society because they expose the broad population to a relatively common pool of information. Acting together, they can facilitate plurality with integration; they also provide certain checks and balances in the polity. · Global networks create new opportunities for direct democracy, and policymakers in each country should consider how these opportuni- ties might best be used. They should decide how and whether direct and representative processes should be rebalanced to maximize legitimacy in both "input" (the voices of citizens) and "output"(policy actions result- ing from those processes). · Policymakers should assess whether the postulated disintegrating effect of global networks is actually felt in their polities. Has there, for example, been a recent trend toward single-issue constituencies? · If global networks are seen as competing with established mecha- nisms for the provision of public goods, it becomes clear that research is needed into what one might call antitrust rules. The goal is to devise work- able competition among the variety of political arenas. · Despite a host of pressures toward greater internationalization and multilateral activity (especially in the European Union), actual change may be slow and painful. Countries give up previously sovereign rights and powers only grudgingly, if at all. 10.3 REGULATORY STRUCTURE An alternative to command-and-control regulation is the use of self- regulation and intermediation within a statutory framework. With hy- brid regulation, a credible threat of state intervention stimulates self-regu- latory activities, and overt state involvement is unnecessary once the self-regulatory activities are under way. (A supranational entity, an inter- national organization, or well-organized societal forces may also have the same effect.) Because global networks are characterized by a complex system of private, public, and quasi-public forces, a stable system is easier to achieve when stakeholders can take an active part in shaping their roles. Command-and-control regulation often attacks a well-balanced status
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PRINCIPLES AND CONCLUSIONS 227 quo; because hybrid regulation builds on the status quo, it is more likely to be successful. Improved prospects for a new hybrid system of governance for global networks are consistent with the shifting boundary between public and private international law. Policy statements by national governments, and the actual establishment of a number of hybrid regulatory approaches, are promising signs that new forms of international governance will help implement the recommendations of this report. 10.4 FREE SPEECH As noted in Chapter 5, the United States and Germany both recognize a constitutional right to freedom of expression. However, the interpreta- tions of that right in the two countries are significantly different. As im- portantly, the weights given to that right, in comparison with other values, are different in the two societies as well. As a result, the legal structures and protections that have developed to implement the right are also dif- ferent, exemplifying why harmonization of nations' laws related to free- dom of expression on the Internet is likely to remain quite difficult. The nature of today's Internet is a significant impediment for national authorities who wish to unilaterally implement laws and regulations that reflect national substantive values. At the same time, national pride and substantive cultural values are unlikely to be abandoned, so that a ho- mogenization of values among nations particularly with respect to the most restrictive or the least is also unlikely to occur. There are some areas, such as child pornography, where there is more- or-less universal agreement on the substantive values to be protected. In- ternational treaties that harmonize rules appear to be well within reach for these few, but important, areas. Generally, the more homogeneous the group of nations, the more likely it is that treaty solutions covering con- tent will be practical. Even if the group of nations is small, it can still be useful in providing a model for harmonization and a bloc for bringing pressure on nonsignatory nations to respect the treaty's provisions. To reduce the tensions and chaos that national differences create for a global activity, governments could cooperate in a number of ways. Na- tions could work together to discourage content providers from using the regulatory environment of one country to circumvent the regulations of another. They could establish an international information agency (or sup- port private or quasi-public organizations) to help providers understand each nation's regulatory standards and structures. Finally, they could update and extend to the networked world the mechanisms that currently exist for dealing with circumstances in which domestic laws conflict.
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228 GLOBAL NETWORKS AND LOCAL VALUES Given the limited effectiveness of unilateral command-and-control rules regulating content, commercial law, self-regulation, and encourage- ment of intermediation (perhaps driven by the threat of imposing regula- tion) are options for national action in the appropriate circumstances. · Commercial law is a useful tool when material on the network in- jures a clearly identifiable party (e.g., a Web site has published libelous material about a person or has violated a person's legally protected pri- vacy). However, ccommercial law does not work well if large groups are indirectly or only potentially affected for example, when child pornog- raphy endangers children, hate speech intimidates minority groups, or Nazi ideology threatens democratic government. · Voluntary self-regulation on the part of the parties directly exposed to material on the Internet through site-identification and labeling schemes, age-verification software, or the provision of filtering software, for example is attractive in some ways, because it offers the potential for greater diversity of material to be accessible through the Internet, en- hanced freedom of expression, and customization of controls to fit the needs and desires of the individuals involved. · Intermediaries, such as host providers, can play a useful role in offering the public a regulating or authenticating service. That is, host providers can market their Internet access software by promising to in- clude certain kinds and quality of content and exclude others. Hosts would compete with each other on the basis of the cluster of options they offer as well as over their software-based filtering systems (although the rigidity of these latter technical tools is a clear disadvantage). Finally, government should provide means for improving the media competence of the users. An oversight function for government will re- main important in striking a balance between the preservation of the indi- vidual right of freedom of expression and other legitimate goals of a democratic society. 10.5 PRIVACY Privacy regulation must cover both online and offline transactions, either through the Internet or private networks, and must include com- prehensive and consistent protection regardless of whether data are col- lected, held, manipulated, or disseminated by public sector or private sec- tor entities. The United States faces particular challenges in this respect because its many sector-specific regulatory approaches are so different from (and indeed often inconsistent with) each other. The existence of transborder data flows creates a strong need for har-
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PRINCIPLES AND CONCLUSIONS 229 monization, or at least convergence, of national legislative regimes, par- ticularly among developed countries. Because the United States and Ger- many, as well as Europe more generally, share a number of values con- cerning privacy rights, harmonization is not out of the realm of possibility. However, subtle but important differences in cultural views about the appropriate role of the government make it unlikely that explicit, uni- form, legislatively based regulations will ever be agreed on. Hybrid approaches that combine self-regulation with a legislative framework that establishes general principles as well as mechanisms for monitoring and enforcement appear much more likely to provide flex- ibility, customization, and quick-response capability in the dynamic world of global networks. 10.6 FREEDOM OF INFORMATION There are few international tensions related to inconsistencies in na- tional freedom-of-information laws, as this is an area in which individual nations can control compliance with their own statutes. However, free- dom of information is so vital to the proper functioning of a democracy that it is reasonable to endorse an upward harmonization of national stan- dards toward the comprehensive law-based regime in place in the United States. That regime takes as a premise the right of citizens to access virtu- ally all public documents (with narrowly drawn exceptions), though in practice the extent to which U.S. government agencies adhere to this re- gime varies widely. Among the few exceptions, in addition to national- security matters or judicial proceedings, are the privacy rights of indi- viduals. Advances in technology make it generally easier to anonymize data in government records, thereby allowing their release without com- . . . promlsmg privacy. Primary legal information including laws, judicial opinions, and administrative rulings should not be excluded from freedom-of-infor- mation regimes merely to protect a property interest of a private entity that uses the data to create value-added databases. If copyright protection is granted to such entities, it should not cover the raw data on which the information product is based. Government institutions should encourage the trend of using Web sites and the Internet to increase the availability of public information. 10.7 TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT The network of networks appears to be what The Economist, in fuly 1995, called "the accidental superhighway." In its early stages the Internet was promoted and funded, but not designed, by the U.S. government. At
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230 GLOBAL NETWORKS AND LOCAL VALUES no time did some kind of master plan exist to guide the Internet's evolu- tion. The history of the Internet's technology suggests that it would be a mistake for governments to seek to control the future development through comprehensive action plans. There are alternatives to centralized approaches, such as coordination and self-regulation, though these pose challenges both within particular countries and globally. Such approaches require accommodating new forms of hybrid public-private international regimes, which may be experimental in the near term (as discussed in Section 10.3~. The core of the Internet's technology the TCP/IP protocol stack- developed in a niche that sheltered it from market selection for many years. This incubation was very useful, and it suggests that creating and protecting other niches may be beneficial in keeping options for techno- logical development open. The challenge will be to provide suitable, timely exposure to market realities while avoiding the propping up of what might not be viable. 10.8 CULTURE AND TECHNOLOGY Generally speaking, cultural hegemony arising from global networks does not appear to be a major concern for developed nations. Technolo- gies are available that allow localization of the language and culture of networks, the cost of entry of information providers of all kinds is low, and saturation of available bandwidth by early users does not appear to be a serious problem. There is more reason for concern about cultural hegemony with re- spect to nations in the developing world. Here, too, the technological ca- pacity exists to localize networks, but the incentives to do so are often marginal. Moreover, in certain of these societies, networks may exacer- bate social stratification, reinforcing the power of elites and upsetting cul- tural balances that have developed over time. Of particular concern is the possibility of "technological lock-in" during these next several years as the structure and use patterns of the Internet develop. An untested postulate, put forward by a number of East Asian and Middle Eastern countries, is that there is a strong connection between their cultural values and their political structures and that global networks can be a threat to both. An examination of how electronic networks have been adopted in the growing diasporas of ethnic groups from these coun- tries might provide further insights on this question. Global networks appear more likely to change the culture of and rela- tionships between various groups within societies, as defined by profes- sion and level of education rather than by national identity. These changes result from the groups' different ways of using the Internet, the different
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PRINCIPLES AND CONCLUSIONS 231 interdependencies among groups that thereby occur, and the consequent changes in the modes of operation of certain professionals that affect ac- tivities unrelated to electronic networks as well as those directly related to the networks. Networks are profoundly challenging the traditional and culturally defined conceptions of public and private spaces. It is not yet clear whether this will lead to two worlds real space and cyberspace with different rules and mores concerning privacy, or whether there will be spillover effects that create tensions or changes in local cultural practices. A separate cyberworld of "Netizens" is not likely to achieve any perma- nence, even as electronic network penetration and use grow over the years to come. Finally, many of the observations about the cultural effects of global networks are likely to be transitory. Global electronic networks will cause a sea change resulting more from continual, dynamic evolution than from any one-time adjustment that remains fixed. Thus, long-term changes in the nature of local culture are certainly probable, but not predictable on the basis of phenomena currently being observed.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: