2 Contesting Cyberspace and the Coming Crisis of Authority
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2 Contesting Cyberspace and the Coming Crisis of Authority Ronald Deibert and Rafal Rohozinski [Essentially contested concepts are] concepts the proper use of which inevitably involves endless disputes about their proper uses on the part of their users. —W. B. Gallie1 In its short life span, the Internet has evolved from a laboratory research tool to a global immersive environment—called cyberspace—that encompasses all of society, economics, and politics. It is the communications environment in which all other activities are now immersed. From the beginning, one of its central characteristics has been its unusual dynamism—a characteristic facilitated by a distributed architecture formed around a basic common protocol. Typically, innovations can come from anywhere in the network, at any of its constantly expanding edge locations, and from any member of its exponentially increasing user base. As the network grows, so do the innovations—leading to yet more dynamism and unpredictability. Over several phases of the Internet’s evolution, however, a different pressure has begun shaping the character of cyberspace—the actions of major institutions, such as states and corporations. Originally conceived of as being too slow, cumbersome, and antiquated to deal with the swiftly evolving trajectory of digital media, states have moved rapidly to regulate, shape, intervene, and exercise power in cyberspace across all its spheres. There is now a burgeoning market for cyber security methods and services that has emerged as a consequence of, and contributor to, the securitization of cyberspace. These interventions have been met with growing resistance as users and others become aware of the stakes involved and as the struggles mount to preserve cyberspace as an open commons. Cyberspace has thus become an object of intense contestation in ways that have been unparalleled in its evolution. The impact is only just beginning to be felt but will have enormous consequences for its character and, by extension, for global politics. In this chapter, we examine the increasing struggle for superiority and the competition for power, influence, and control that defines the contestation of cyberspace. We 22 Ronald Deibert and Rafal Rohozinski lay out the major driving forces of cyberspace contests: the continued rapid expansion of cyberspace throughout all aspects of society, including the rapid rise of mobile access devices; a demographic shift from the North and West to the South and East as a new generation of digital natives outside the industrialized West logs on and brings with them a new set of values and interests and resistance to state and privatesector controls; the increasingly dynamic competition among states for influence in and through cyberspace, manifest in the creation of dedicated cyber armed forces and an arms race in cyberspace; and more aggressive measures taken by authoritarian and democratically challenged states to counter antiregime mobilization through offensive activities. The contests we outline cannot be categorized in simple dualisms, but reflect a patchwork of competing interests and values. These contests are reaching down into the very inner workings of cyberspace, into areas previously assumed to be noncontroversial and immutable components of its core operating infrastructure. Everything is up for grabs as cyberspace opens itself up to intense debate, negotiation , and competitive struggle. Principles and rules that were once cherished and sacred have been questioned and challenged: from network neutrality, to basic peering and routing arrangements, to the legitimacy of denial-of-service and other offensive computer attacks. The contests in cyberspace that we outline, therefore, represent a serious crisis of political authority and legitimacy of existing norms, rules, and principles, as the emerging domain, along with the largely privatesector -controlled infrastructure on which it rests, clashes with the territorially based system of sovereign rule and widely varying perceptions of national interest and identity. We conclude, however, on a relatively optimistic note. The crisis of authority in the domain opened up by contestation throws into question that entire edifice of cyberspace governance—from the infrastructure, to the code, to the regulatory realms. But in doing so, it also turns everything inside out, so to speak, laid bare for everyone to examine and begin again anew. Of course, such an opening presents serious risks for long-cherished principles and norms. But as they are questioned, an opportunity opens up for a comprehensive discussion of first principles: how the space should be defined and constituted, what behavior is appropriate for this space, and what should be the relationship, responsibilities, and rights of the actors who control it and the political jurisdictions through which it...