McLaughlin speaks on the expansion of the internet and its risks

Andrew McLaughlin, a lecturer at the Stanford Law School and the executive director of the Creative Commons delivered this inaugural lecture for the fall season of the liberation technology seminar series at Stanford. McLauglin argues that the internet originally evolved into a diffused and decentralized system amidst a small set of trusted organizations and security was not major concern at that stage.  The expansion of the internet has created substantial risks, and some of these risks are in areas over which no entity is in charge.  The question of who should address these and what role governments should play in it has implications for sovereignty and free speech.

In the current architecture of the internet, private organizations such as Certificate Authorities, browser makers, internet service providers and ICANN play an important and co-dependent role.  Their decisions have implications for the smooth operation of the internet and security of the cyberspace.  The growing importance of the internet to economies and increasing security risks makes a case for government intervention, and intervention in turn has implications for free speech.  The significance of such entities based in foreign countries also raises questions of sovereignty.

While free speech and other considerations present a case for governments not to intervene in regulating the internet, the decentralized architecture of the internet presents collective action problems.  Some of the security risks can be addressed only by collaborative effort between entities, but no entity has the mandate or the incentive to initiate the necessary changes.  This presents a dilemma for the governments, and McLauglin argues that instead of dictating solutions governments can play a role in creating solutions by convening meetings amongst various key groups, and thus create the impetus to address the risks.

The talk also deals with issues such as whether the decentralized nature of the internet is under threat, and promising models to address some of the specific risks mentioned above.