THE WORLD WIDE Web is increasingly having national boundaries drawn over it. At the second Global Internet Conference, a meeting of a couple of dozen countries convened by China in Wuzhen in Zhejiang province, President Xi Jinping laid out his notions of online national sovereignty along with a defence of online censorship.
“Freedom is what order is meant for,” Xi said, “and order is the guarantee of freedom”. And the greatest of these are order, this Bystander is tempted to add.
The right of a country to control the information flows across and within its borders, which is what cyber sovereignty means, is at odds with the way the internet has grown up as a free exchange of information (and thus ideas).
Russian Prime MinisterDmitry Medvedev, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov kept company with a host of executives from such US tech titans as Apple, Facebook, IBM, LinkedIn and Wikipedia were there to hear Xi’s message that “no country alone can claim the role of the sole universal regulator of the world-wide web”.
This all, though, fits squarely with the massive resources that are being directed towards internal security and with China’s creation of parallel institutions to circumvent what it sees as the Western-dominant existing ones.