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Chokepoints: Global Private Regulation on the Internet

Natasha Tusikov
Copyright Date: 2017
Edition: 1
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In January 2012, millions participated in the now-infamous "Internet blackout" against theStop Online Piracy Act, protesting the power it would have given intellectual property holders over the Internet. However, while SOPA's withdrawal was heralded as a victory for an open Internet, a small group of corporations, tacitly backed by the US and other governments, have implemented much of SOPA via a series of secret, handshake agreements. Drawing on extensive interviews, Natasha Tusikov details the emergence of a global regime in which large Internet firms act as regulators for powerful intellectual property owners, challenging fundamental notions of democratic accountability.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-96503-4
    Subjects: Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Abbreviations (pp. xv-xviii)
  7. 1 Secret Handshake Deals (pp. 1-35)

    January 18, 2012, has become famous in certain circles as the date of the “Internet blackout,” the climax of the world’s largest, most dramatic, and—arguably—most effective online protest to date. On January 18, web giants including Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, Tumblr, and Mozilla blacked out some or all of their web pages, as did thousands of smaller websites.

    Over the course of several months leading up to that date, a transnational coalition of academics, technologists, civil-society activists, Internet users, and Internet companies came together to oppose Internet censorship and Draconian rules that they said would impede the functioning of...

  8. 2 Internet Firms Become Global Regulators (pp. 36-67)

    The U.S. government’s campaign to destroy the WikiLeaks site in 2010 following WikiLeaks’ publication of classified U.S. diplomatic cables is one of the earliest and most publicized cases that shows Internet intermediaries’ capacity as powerful global regulators. WikiLeaks, created in 2006 in Iceland and founded by Julian Assange, is a nonprofit journalistic organization with the goal of publishing information leaked by whistleblowers. WikiLeaks garnered public attention in April 2010 when it published a 2007 video from a U.S. military Apache helicopter in Iraq firing upon a group of people on the ground. The video, which WikiLeaks titled Collateral Murder, aroused...

  9. 3 Revenue Chokepoints (pp. 68-115)

    Payment providers, particularly those with global operations, have emerged as powerful regulators, given their ability to control the online flow of funds. By withdrawing their payment services, these intermediaries can seriously disrupt the capacity of businesses or individuals to generate revenue by raising donations or selling goods and services. The largest payment providers—Visa, PayPal, and MasterCard—are particularly active gatekeepers for states and other corporate actors. As discussed in the previous chapter, these providers withdrew their services from WikiLeaks in 2010 after intense pressure from the U.S. government. This campaign against WikiLeaks, which significantly disrupted the organization’s ability to...

  10. 4 Access Chokepoints (pp. 116-155)

    Search intermediaries and domain registrars facilitate access to the web,¹ and both provide critical Internet services. Search engines enable individuals to access knowledge and ideas from around the world and to tap into previously difficult-to-retrieve sources of information. Google, created in 1998, dominates the search market worldwide, to the extent that the company has become synonymous with online search services. In fact, Google has entered our common vernacular as a verb (“to Google”), and the term often refers to any kind of online search. Given its market share and the billions of searches it facilitates daily, Google arouses the ire...

  11. 5 Marketplace Chokepoints (pp. 156-187)

    Online marketplaces have fundamentally transformed the way individuals and businesses buy and sell goods and services. The U.S.-based eBay and the Chinese Taobao marketplaces are the largest online marketplaces globally. Taobao is part of the massive Alibaba Group, which operates several online marketplaces, including the Alibaba marketplace, which caters to wholesale buyers. Since the early days of eBay and Amazon, which were the first major marketplaces of this type, people have tried to sell illicit, dangerous, fraudulent, or outright bizarre goods. eBay’s early years were marked by people’s attempts to sell items including magic amulets, souls, cadavers, children, and virginity...

  12. 6 Changing the Enforcement Paradigm (pp. 188-219)

    The nonbinding enforcement agreements discussed in the previous chapters have transformed the regulation of intellectual property online and recast Internet firms as global regulators for multinational rights holders. Those within the anticounterfeiting regime quietly drafted a series of handshake deals that effectively implemented measures from the defeated Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act.

    These case studies illustrate a complex regulatory regime that stretches globally to regulate intellectual property through advertising, payment, search, domain name, and marketplace macrointermediaries. While the parts of this overall regime, discussed in their separate chapters, are distinctive, they share key similarities. The...

  13. 7 A Future for Digital Rights (pp. 220-240)

    The non-legally binding enforcement agreements traced in this book represent the first time that the largest, most powerful Internet firms agreed to coordinate their enforcement capabilities, not to serve the state, but to accommodate an elite group of multinational companies. By quietly establishing partnerships with U.S.-based macrointermediaries in the payment, search, advertising, marketplace, and domain name sectors, rights holders have accessed a regulatory capacity that was previously available only to powerful states. Before this, governments in the United States and United Kingdom had established similar partnerships to crack down on child pornography, illegal gambling, and online extremism.

    The nonbinding agreements...

  14. Notes (pp. 241-246)
  15. References (pp. 247-272)
  16. Index (pp. 273-295)