Wired.com today carries a story in which US consumer rights activist and now
political candidate Raph Nader suggests that perhaps we should have the
equivalent of the United Nations in place to control the Internet.
The move is slated by Wired as "an opportunity for a new global bureaucracy"
and, as regular readers will be well aware, I'm strongly opposed to such
things -- but in this case I believe he has the germ of a good idea.
As has been proven time and time again by various cases involving pornography,
defamation, trademarks and other issues, the Net is plagued by the fact that
it has no physical location and therefore is not under the control of any
single set of laws.
What's legal in one country may be illegal in another -- but if a US law
is broken by someone accessing the Net in the UK -- has a crime really been
I've long advocated the creation of a separate jurisdiction for cyberspace that
would allow all online activities to be controlled by a single consistent
set of laws. These laws would in effect for a treaty by which other countries
would agree to enforce, or at least aide the enforcement of them with a central
Well hell -- why don't we just declare cyberspace to be a virtual country?
Whenever you log on to the Net, you will in effect be visiting that country and
thus you'll be bound by its laws.
For example -- if unsolicited email marketing is made illegal in cyberspace then,
no matter where you access the Net from, if you spam then you will have broken
the law. The cyberspace authorities would have the right to issue a fine or
other penalty that would (under the terms of the international treaty) be
enforced by the local authorities of the country in which you live.
At this stage there would be little conflict between local and cyberspace
laws concerning the Internet -- since there are so few countries which have
any real Net-specific legislation anyway. Besides which -- people will just
have to accept that they are in effect in a different country when online.
Just as foreigners have to remember that chewing gum in Singapore is
illegal and carries a stiff fine -- visitors to cyberspace will have to
agree to abide by the laws of that jurisdiction while online.
Now for the downside: Just as we all need a valid passport to travel from
one country to another, the chances are that to be effective and easily
policed, the creation of "cyberspace" would also require that anyone wanting
to use the Net have a valid cyberspace passport.
This electronic document would uniquely identify them while they were online -- thus
allowing crimes to be traced to the perpetrator and minimising the cost of
Sounds like huge reduction in online privacy right? Maybe so -- but then again,
you can't enter most foreign countries without disclosing a lot of private
information -- and the way our own lawmakers are headed we're going to lose a lot
more than just our privacy if the anti-hacking bill currently under consideration
is enacted in its current form.
So, what do YOU think? Should we create an entirely new virtual country to
represent the online world?
Would the price be too high or would it be the simplest and most sensible
way to deal with the increasing number of problems that are appearing as
the Net matures and becomes an integral part of our business and recreation?
The Weekly Trickles Out
This week's edition of the Weekly has started trickling out. It will probably
take a day or so before they're all sent but they're on their way.
As always, your feedback is welcomed and...
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