The Internet: State of Nature or Artificial State?
A Modern Reflection on Hobbes and Rousseau
The principle of net neutrality implies that internet service providers must treat all information packet sets by content providers equally and free of charge (Calzada & Tselekounis, 2018, p.191). On December 14, 2017, the American Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed the rule that classified the Internet as a public utility under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act (passed by the Obama administration in 2015). This recent development concerning net neutrality in the United States has increased the tension between those arguing for the free flow of information and the business side of commercialized information technology (Yeh & Cheng, 2017, p.2). Critics view the FCC’s decision as a threat to both the freedom of internet consumers and the progress of scientific discovery, but also as imposing a significant market disadvantage on small businesses. Free information flow is not considered a fundamental human right. However, the U.S. government does have an active legal duty to promote freedom of speech, which would be stifled by the elimination of net neutrality (Yeh & Cheng, 2017, p.16). Yet, freedom of speech is not necessarily equated with a free flow of information, as one is a fundamental human right recognized by law and the other an unofficial grant (in this case of Internet culture). Furthermore, net neutrality does not contribute to the development of broadband networks, and thus stifles their growth – which is perceived as detrimental in the capitalist paradigm of constant economic progression (Yeh & Cheng, 2017, p.17). In an increasingly knowledge-based economy, the elimination of net neutrality would ultimately create a competitive distinction between networking countries, and would increase the gap between the networked and other, isolated, countries, giving rise to information scarcity by making Internet access exclusive (Holderness, 2005, pp.38). With the threat the elimination of net neutrality poses to online and (world-)economic participation in mind, it would be interesting to see whether the premise of the Internet being free and open to all is true, and whether or not that premise of freedom is a desirable one. This essay will be looking into the philosophies of both Hobbes and Rousseau, and link them to the digital realm. Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau have both theorized on the concept of governance, and have long adopted opposing views on the matter. The aim of this essay is to determine whether the Internet really needs governance – or if perhaps it has always been a governed state. The outcome of this analysis functions to determine the importance of net neutrality preservation on a global scale.
|Series||Erasmus Student Journal of Philosophy (ESJP)|
|Journal||Erasmus Student Journal of Philosophy|
van Reeven, E. (2018). The Internet: State of Nature or Artificial State?. Erasmus Student Journal of Philosophy, 14, 17–23. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/124785