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Geopolitical conflicts and wars have been affecting access to the Internet since the Internet became more formalized and in a way, industrialized. This project focuses on “economic sanctions”, their effect on access to the Internet and the value of interconnectedness without discrimination.

Geopolitical conflicts and wars have been affecting access to the Internet since the Internet became more formalized and in a way, industrialized. This project focuses on “economic sanctions”, their effect on access to the Internet and the value of interconnectedness without discrimination.

Because of its history, the Internet and access to it were always affected by geopolitical conflicts and wars. Once it became widely accessible to consumers, however, the Internet became subject to trade sanction regimes in the US and Europe and possibly elsewhere.  There are debates about whether sanctions are effective for changing States’ behavior and what can be effectively sanctioned. As the Internet is a relatively new industrial area, this project proposes to adopt a systemic approach and document how sanctions are currently applied to the Internet, why there have been previous attempts not to apply sanctions to the Internet, whether contemporary problems necessitate application of sanctions to the Internet, and what a desirable outcome might be for sanctions and Internet access in the future.

We will use interviews, desk research and analytical narratives to provide a background on how sanctions have directly or indirectly affected access to the Internet. 

- Policy solutions: considering past sanction exemptions, what are the potential pathways to arguing for policies that can diminish the impact of sanction on access to the Internet but at the same time help governments achieve their sanction goals. 

- Strategies for compliance with sanctions while keeping the Internet global: the research discovers why businesses over comply with sanctions and how the risk strategies can change to maintain provision of services while still being in compliance with sanction rules. 

- Institutional changes: the research will also look into whether we need institutional and governance changes in Internet governance organizations in order to maintain interconnectedness.

Related meetings


Progress reports


  • Farzaneh Badiei, Digital Medusa 
  • Zhenye (Ryan) Pan, Columbia University 


This project is being funded by RIPE NCC 


Shall we resume dreaming? Decentralized web and decentralized governance 

The Internet and the world wide web are not the same thing. First, there are parts of the Internet that are not the web (the most obvious of which is email). But second, even though the web as a whole is decentralized, the design of the web is not technically a decentralized technology in the way some other Internet services are. That has had many implications for digital governance. 

In a recent paper I co-authored with professors Meares and Tyler, we include a brief history of how, gradually, communities and autonomous decision-making on the Internet turned into a centralized, top-down governance on social media platforms. One reason we have identified is the “centralized” nature of the web. (P.26) Before the web became popular, services such as Usenet operated in a decentralized manner. Multiple Internet site operators had a role to play in governing the space and it was not possible to take control of an entire operation. Attempts to impose central control resulted in people objecting and setting up alternatives.   

When the web started becoming popular, its comparatively centralized technology encouraged centralization of content and a more top-down governance approach. However, note that it was still possible to have a decentralized governance on the web and early on, platforms such as Slashdot and Wikipedia continued using a community-based governance on the web (they still more or less do). Gradually, however, new platforms emerged with a tendency to be more and more centralized. It was the website owners who would decide the governance of that site, and it is costly to set up alternatives to a site if a governance mechanism is not desirable. Economically, it was also in these platforms’ interest to keep users inside their “ecosystems”. It was easy to predict that the centralization and top-down governance approaches and the disappearing communities would eventually happen. But the question is, how innovative are we in our technological and governance approaches that can create a decentralized digital space?  

Perhaps we should be more creative than just arguing for tired content moderation governance systems and arguing with social media platforms about who is “really” in charge and keep bringing up platform responsibility. Maybe decentralized technology can help us with solving some of the contemporary social media platform problems. Last week at the Unfinished Live event Jonathan Dotan (Starling Lab) gave an excellent and powerful presentation on a new paradigm for preserving history and human rights. By creating a new “web” protocol that is decentralized, it might be more feasible to create trust in the digital records of human history— for example to preserve the accounts of a holocaust survivor or an Afghan Taliban victim. They intend to provide a way to create a chain of custody, store data in a decentralized way that cannot be manipulated or altered (but that doesn’t necessarily need consensus) and provide the ability to verify data without having to trust the source. Imagine if, instead of tech-giants, the nodes (i.e. humans) were able to authenticate a piece of data and store it.

These kinds of initiatives are worthwhile to follow as they are very issue specific and, unlike other claims about decentralized technologies, they are not too abstract. However, one thing that I think we should stop doing is to separate decentralized governance from decentralized technology discussions. The combination of decentralized governance and technology might be an answer to some of the digital problems we are facing. Perhaps MacKinnon’s thought piece about governance of Web3 is a step in that direction.

Copyright trolls are out in force around the world. And the pandemic is their perfect excuse

Farzaneh Badii, (former) Executive Director of the Internet Governance Project at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, agrees, saying that the “rationale behind their actions is to generate revenue. They use and lobby for laws they can make profit from and the positive effect of these laws and harsh enforcement on the society is unfounded and mostly anecdotal.”

In Germany, explains Badii, “the wifi providers and ISPs are liable for copyright infringing if their service is used to commit the infringement.” Meanwhile in the US there are several methods lawyers use to go after alleged copyright infringements and users.

“In some jurisdictions they have to get a court order or some other legal order to get the personal information. They might also go through an easier and faster process (like a government agency tribunal). If the personal information is not protected by appropriate laws, the ISP might hand in the personal information even without a court order. And in some jurisdictions the ISP has to send the notice the lawyer has sent to the alleged copyright infringer,” explains Badii.
Badii comments that copyright trolls will tell you that “they want to protect the rights of the authors, that copyright is good for innovation and creativity! Some claim that they are protecting the Internet from dangerous materials, they argue they want to keep us safe.”

But when they use such excuses, Badii notes, “I imagine Fake Gucci bags attacking the Internet.”

Raphael Tsavkko Garcia, CyberNews

About The Author

Farzaneh Badii

Digital Medusa is a boutique advisory providing digital governance research and advocacy services. It is the brainchild of Farzaneh Badi[e]i.Digital Medusa’s mission is to provide objective and alternative digital governance narratives.