Google sponsors internet censorship symposium

Conference organiser, Dr Uta Kohl from the Department of Law and Criminology

Conference organiser, Dr Uta Kohl from the Department of Law and Criminology

05 September 2014

Representatives from Google, Microsoft, the European Commission, UNESCO and academics from both sides of the Atlantic will be amongst the delegates attending an international symposium on censorship of the internet at Aberystwyth University next week from 10-11 September 2014.

‘Internet Jurisdiction Symposium: National Law v Global Online Communications – Re-Negotiating Westphalia?’ is organised by the departments of Law & Criminology and International Politics at Aberystwyth University.

Sponsored by Google Inc and Aberystwyth University, the symposium brings together academics from disciplines such as law, politics, media studies and human geography, representatives from industry, government and non-governmental organisations.

This symposium will investigate the sharpening conflict between national law and state sovereignty on the one hand, and global online communications on the other hand.

According to conference organisers, the world is on the brink of a potentially drastic transformation of the Internet into a much more territorially fragmented space, consisting of a number of separate, yet overlapping national and regional networks.

They argue that even European leaders are investigating the possibility of a European-only communication network, strongly reminiscent of China’s approach to online governance. The Westphalian model of state sovereignty is fighting back - but at what cost and what are the alternatives?

Conference organiser, Dr Uta Kohl said; “China has long been known for its tough internet censorship regime. More recently the anti-Islamic movie trailer ‘The Innocence of Muslims’ was in the headlines when YouTube decided to ‘voluntarily’ block it in Egypt and Libya and later in other countries where the video clashed with local laws. Hot off the press is the news that the Turkey Constitutional Court held that the general ban of YouTube in Turkey was unconstitutional.

“Such censorship barely raises an eyebrow today, but what is perhaps less obvious to the ordinary internet users and news readers is that online censorship is also increasingly becoming the reality for us Europeans with a long standing history of democracy and freedom of expression.

“The discussion of this conference seeks to advance the established yet stale academic debate on internet jurisdiction by taking a multi-disciplinary approach, going beyond the conventional parameters of the legal analysis.

“Rather than focus on specific jurisdictional rules and frameworks (all of which are premised on the continued viability of effective national laws in the global arena, i.e. the very matter in contention), the starting point of the discussion of this conference is the proposition that effective national law and unhindered transnational communications are irreconcilable and that any ‘compromise’ is indeed a compromise that comes at a cost either to peculiar national laws/values or free transnational communications or in fact both: you cannot have your cake and eat it too.

“With the acceptance of this position, it becomes possible to ground the debate in higher legal and political values, such as freedom of expression, democratic governance and the preservation of cultural identity/diversity, and to interrogate the possibilities of catering for these values through re-negotiated forms of governance.”

Further details about the conference are available here.