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Track 2: Social, Legal and Regulatory Policies

Session: Internet Law or Law of the Internet

By Celia Boyer, 22 July 1998


The Case Against Internet Law

Already the Internet is an important tool for communication, education, research, business, employment, investment, and social interaction and for the new generation growing up with it this new communication media will be critically and extremely important.

Due to the nature of the Internet with its dynamic and active environment, free speech expression and no regulation, fraud, adult content, child pornography, impostors, medical malpractice are available in this Cyber world. Since the popularity of Internet - sparked off by the World-Wide Web - everyone has tried to regulate and to invent new laws for this media. The implication of current trends is enormous. Legislation and regulation are likely to increase considerably with the risk that there will be too much unnecessary and redundant law. The likelihood of inconsistent legal treatment among different media will exist and must not be ignored. These new trends could impede and/or skew Internet into a purely commercial and technological development. A lot of policies lose their focus, targeting technology and not conduct and content. The policy concerns are misplaced. These new trends have proliferated because of the desire to set standards in advance of actions by other jurisdictions. An appropriate approach could be to act only as necessary to address demonstrated needs. How can we create a legal model for something when we do not know how it will evolve?

The problem is that no-one looks to see if there is a law that can be applied to the media and that can be used for the Internet. " Internet creates a new medium for traditional legal issues : it does not create new issues" said Jeffrey Matsuura. With the absence of specific laws for the Internet, judicial systems will apply existing law and regulation to this new environment. Law should neither favour nor disadvantage the Internet and should be based on knowledge. Conduct that is lawless in other media should be lawless on the Internet. And if Internet context identifies legal shortcomings such as privacy of data and personal information, these should be resolved for all media. "We do not need a law for Internet, the Internet law already exists."


Legal Realism and the Internet : Revolution or Social Contract ?

The purpose and scope of this paper was to examine how the Internet is being regulated, to sharpen and focus the debate on approaches and to identify potential solutions. Laws vary considerably from nation to nation.

In Singapore there is a Singapore Broadcasting Authority with the " Internet Code of Practice " (first version 15 July 1996, second version 1 November 1997). The regulation is on the Internet, it is a networked approach. The self-regulation has given an apparent move to greater freedom but there is a lack of congruence between purpose and administration of the Internet Code of Practice.

Self regulation can be a solution and an alternative to Internet law. Governments have universally failed to act. Self regulation with principles can be a global approach to Internet regulation.

Free speech be mindful to this maxim :

" Liberty may be gained, but can never be recovered "  Jean-Jacques Rousseau


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