Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Internet Freedom in Global Politics
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 22 x 1 Hour Lectures
Seminar 10 x 1 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,000 word essay  30%
Semester Assessment online seminar partcipation  20%
Semester Assessment 1 x 700 word essay plan  10%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   (1 x 2 hour) pre-seen exam or 1 x 2,500 word essay  40%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  40%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 700 word essay plan  10%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,000 word essay  30%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 1,000 word review in lieu of seminar participation  20%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. explain and critically discuss the origins and implications of Internet Freedom as a human right;
2. explain and critically discuss the origins and implications of Internet Freedom as a foreign policy;
3. demonstrate an understanding of competing views about Internet Freedom from a political perspective;
4. critically analyse the key debates around the promotion of Internet Freedom as a universal right;
5. demonstrate an understanding of the use of some basic technological tools used to circumvent censorship online; and,
6. Critically analyse how states succeed or fail to adhere to the UNHCR Resolution on Internet Freedom.


Part One: Introduction
Lecture 1: Introduction
Lecture 2: Western Norms and the Birth of the Internet
Seminar 1: Are ideas embedded in Internet technology?
Lecture 3: Individualism and Communitarianism: Competing views of Privacy
Lecture 4: The Freedom to What? Intersection of Technological and Political Norms
Seminar 2: Expectations of access to information/privacy.

Part Two: The Emergence of Internet Freedom as a Human Right
Lecture 5: Internet Freedom as a Human Right: Debates and Justifications
Lecture 6: Internet Freedom as a Human Right: The UN, NGOs and Civil Society
Seminar 3: Internet Freedom as a Human Right

Part Three: The Emergence of Internet Freedom as a Foreign Policy
Lecture 7: Internet Freedom as Foreign Policy: 21st Century Statecraft
Lecture 8: Internet Freedom as Foreign Policy: EU Adoption of Internet Freedom
Seminar 4: Internet Freedom as a Foreign Policy

Part Four: Resistance to Internet Freedom
Lecture 9: Russia and China: Cyber Security Concerns
Lecture 10: Regime Change: The Arab Spring
Seminar 5: Resistance to Internet Freedom
Lecture 11: Problems for the West: The Limits of Internet Freedom

Part Five: Problems Ahead for Internet Freedom
Lecture 12: Decoupling Human Rights and Foreign Policy
Seminar 6: Problems Ahead for Internet Freedom
Lecture 13: The Balkanisation of the Internet
Lecture 14: Wrap up and Revision

Brief description

This module employs an innovative use of technology for teaching designed to immerse the students in the very technologies we will be studying and analyzing. Concepts of transparency, accountability and legitimacy of information in democratic and non-democratic states frame the material covered in this module. By engaging with Internet Freedom both as a human right and as a foreign policy, students will have an opportunity to explore and analyse the complex and often contradictory ways in which this increasingly important and influential principle is discussed in global politics.

The module begins by laying some conceptual groundwork for the analysis of Internet Freedom. What ideas, norms and values influenced those developing Internet technology in the 1970s and 80s? To what extent do those ideas shape and influence our use of the Internet today? And significantly, how do ideas about privacy and access to information differ in different states? The module then moves on to an examination of Internet Freedom as a human right. Here we engage with the debates and justifications that propelled the UN Human Rights Council to declare Internet Freedom a universal human right in 2012. Not surprisingly, there was some contention around this decision and we will explore the nature and outcomes of those debates. We then move on to analyse Internet Freedom as a foreign policy discussing the origins, objectives, and exercise of this approach. Here we focus on some key actors that promote it; the US and the EU, to explore how norms about Internet technology are being incorporated into debates about global politics. The next part of the module looks at resistance to Internet Freedom. We examine the motivations behind China and Russia's response to the implementation of Internet Freedom as well as the response from states during the Arab Spring uprisings. Having already examined Internet Freedom as both a human right and a foreign policy, looking at resistance to it becomes more nuanced and raises questions of hegemony, the durability/fragility of sovereignty and global civil society. The final part of this module explores some of the potential problems that lie ahead for Internet Freedom. This section provides an opportunity to examine the opportunities and challenges of marrying the promotion of human rights with a foreign policy agenda


This course aims to introduce students to some of the political implications of Internet Freedom and to encourage them to analyse the concepts and ideas behind it in a critical and informed way.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Numerical data collection will not be a central component of this module.
Communication Students will learn how to present their ideas both verbally and in writing and how to assert themselves to advantage. They will understand the importance of information and clear communication. They will know how to use the many sources of information available and how to use the most appropriate form of communication to the best advantage. They will learn to consider only that which is relevant to the topic. Online and face to face seminars will be run in groups where discussion and debate will form the main medium of teaching and the emphasis throughout the module will be on student participation and communication. Fellow students will be encouraged to question one another, to critique their approach or to suggest areas for the development of the chosen topic; in turn each will discuss the contributions and ideas of the other.
Improving own Learning and Performance The module aims to promote self-management but within a context of assistance from both the convenor and the fellow students alike. Students will be expected to improve their own learning and performance by undertaking their own research and to exercise their own initiative, including searching for sources, compiling reading lists, and deciding (under guidance) the direction of their essay topic. The online forum will provide an excellent opportunity for students to assess their own work against that of others – particularly through analysis of the ‘post of the week’ – an example of highly graded student work that will be made available to them with annotation explaining why it was successful. The need to participate in an online forum and to meet an essay deadline will focus students’ attention on the need to manage their time and opportunity resources well.
Information Technology Both the content and the teaching methods of this course help to promote advanced learning in information technology. Students will be constantly engaging with a range of online technologies, some of which may be new to them. In these cases, they will be provided with tutorial videos to assist their learning. Students will be expected to submit their work online and receive their feedback online. The module makes considerable use of Blackboard and introduces the students to a number of learning tools readily available to them through this platform.
Personal Development and Career planning The content of the class is itself a growing field of study, political analysis and commercial expansion. Understanding better the many, many ways that politics, technology and the private sector interact will introduce them to a range of potential careers they may never have considered. More specifically, improving their online communication skills will be an important element of personal development and career planning for students in this module. Exposure to alternative employment models online will broaden their conception of their possible future career goals. The on and off-line discussions will develop students’ verbal and presentation skills. Learning about the process of planning an essay and a presentation, framing the parameters of the projects, honing and developing the projects and seeing through to completion will contribute towards their portfolio of transferable skills.
Problem solving Independent project work and problem solving will be one of the central goals of the module; the submission of an essay will require that the student develops independent research skills as well as problem solving skills. The need to research and prepare the online forum posts will also enable the student to develop independent project skills. The ability of students to solve problems will be developed and assessed by asking them to: adopt differing points of view; consider extreme cases; reason logically; consider similar cases; look for patterns and divide issues into smaller problems. A final examination will ensure that an assessment of the student’s ability to work alone can be undertaken.
Research skills The submission of an essay will reflect the independent research skills of the student. The need to locate appropriate research resources and write up the results will also facilitate research skills. Research preparation for the online forum posts will also enable the student to develop independent project skills. A final examination will ensure that an assessment of the student’s ability to work alone can be undertaken.
Subject Specific Skills Students have the opportunity to develop, practice and test a wide range of subject specific skills that help them to understand, conceptualise and evaluate examples and ideas on the module. These subject specific skills include: • Collect and understand a wide range of relevant data • Ability to evaluate competing perspectives • Demonstrate subject specific research techniques • Apply a range of methodologies to complex problems
Team work Seminars will consist in part of small-group discussion both face to face and online where students will be expected to discuss as a group the core issues related to seminar topics. Such debates and discussions are a vital component of the module. The online forum is also an effective means of community building and students will be responsible as a team for building their discussion board into a useful resource for themselves and their classmates.


This module is at CQFW Level 6