Internet-based services that build on automated algorithmic selection processes, for example search engines, computational advertising, and recommender systems, are booming and platform companies that provide such services are among the most valuable corporations worldwide. Algorithms on and beyond the Internet are increasingly influencing, aiding, or replacing human decision-making in many life domains. Their far-reaching, multifaceted economic and social impact, which results from the governance by algorithms, is widely acknowledged. However, suitable policy reactions, that is, the governance of algorithms, are the subject of controversy in academia, politics, industry, and civil society. This governance by and of algorithms is to be understood in the wider context of current technical and societal change, and in connection with other emerging trends. In particular, expanding algorithmizing of life domains is closely interrelated with and dependent on growing datafication and big data on the one hand, and rising automation and artificial intelligence in modern, digitized societies on the other. Consequently, the assessments and debates of these central developmental trends in digitized societies overlap extensively. Research on the governance by and of algorithms is highly interdisciplinary. Communication studies contributes to the formation of so-called “critical algorithms studies” with its wide set of sub-fields and approaches and by applying qualitative and quantitative methods. Its contributions focus both on the impact of algorithmic systems on traditional media, journalism, and the public sphere, and also cover effect analyses and risk assessments of algorithmic-selection applications in many domains of everyday life. The latter includes the whole range of public and private governance options to counter or reduce these risks or to safeguard ethical standards and human rights, including communication rights in a digital age.
Michael Latzer and Natascha Just
Benjamin R. Banta
The earliest scholarly writing on “cyberpolitics” focused mainly on the domestic sphere, but it became clear by the mid-2000s that the Internet-generated “cyberspace” was also having massive effects on the broader dynamics and patterns of international politics. A great deal of the early research on this phenomenon focused on the way cyberspace might empower nonstate actors of all varieties. In many respects that has been the case, but states have increasingly asserted their “cyberpower” in a variety of ways. Some scholars even predict a coming territorialization of what was initially viewed as a technology that fundamentally resisted the dictates of sovereign borders. Such disparate possibilities speak to the ambiguity surrounding the intersection of the international system and the political affordances generated by the Internet and related technologies. Does cyberpolitics challenge the international system as we know it—perhaps altering the very nature of war, sovereignty, and the state itself—or will it merely be subsumed within some structurally mandated logic of state-centric self-help? As might be expected, research that speaks to such foundational questions is quite sprawling. It is also still somewhat inchoate because the object of study is complex and highly malleable. The cyber-“domain” involves a physical substrate ostensibly subject to a territorially demarcated international system, but Internet-enabled activities have expanded rapidly and unpredictably over the past few decades because it also involves a virtual superstructure designed to be a network of networks, and so fundamentally at odds with centralized control. As such, some argue that because cyberspace has so enmeshed itself into all aspects of society, international politics and cyberspace should be seen as coevolving systems, and concomitantly that fields such as International Relations (IR) must update their theoretical and methodological tools. Such contentions indicate that an understanding of extra-domestic cyberpolitics has not so much involved progressively developing insights as differing perspectives compete to explain reality, but rather the growing recognition that we are only now catching up to a rapidly changing reality. As part of that recognition, much of the cutting-edge International Studies (IS) work on cyberpolitics is aimed at researching how the central actor in global politics, the state, is increasingly a cyberpolitical actor. This has meant the abandonment of strong assertions about the way cyberspace would exist separate from the “real world” of state interaction, or that it would force the alteration of especially hierarchical forms of state power. Instead, burgeoning literatures examine the myriad ways states seek to resist and control cyberpolitical activity by others, deploy their own cyberpolitical power, and even shape the very cyberspace in which all of this can occur. This focus on “international cyberpolitics” thus involves tracking a complex and growing milieu of practices, all while reflecting on the possibly fundamental changes being forced upon the international system. All of this points to the likelihood that the study of international politics will increasingly also be the study of international cyberpolitics.
Ronald Deibert and Rafal Rohozinski
The internet is commonly defined as “a worldwide network of computer networks that use the TCP/IP network protocols to facilitate data transmission and exchange.” A related term is “cyberspace,” which has a broader connotation suggestive of the virtual worlds that emerge from the internet, including chat rooms, three-dimension game environments, and online forums. A primary feature of internet governance is self-regulation. From content to protocols to addressing schemes, numerous networked forms of self-regulation have helped govern the internet. One of the issues of significance to internet governance has to do with the governance processes associated with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the politics associated with the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS). Other questions arising from internet governance include those relating to cybercrime, internet security, surveillance and privacy, and the idea of network neutrality. One problem that needs to be addressed with regard to internet governance is that there is no single regime for internet governance inasmuch as there are several multiple and overlapping governance domains—what W. H. Dutton calls the “mosaic” of internet governance. Future research should focus on whether to consolidate around a single regime with a single global governing body, as well as how to control the “arms race” on the internet.
Internet freedom is a process. Internet freedom takes place through a myriad of practices, such as technology development, media production, and policy work, through which various actors, existing within historical, cultural, economic, and political contexts, continuously seek to determine its meaning. Some of these practices take place within traditional Internet governance structures, yet others take place outside of these. Crypto-discourse refers to a partially fixed instance of the process in which actors seek to construct the meaning of Internet freedom that mainly takes place outside of traditional Internet governance structures. Crypto-discourse describes a process in which specific communities of crypto-advocates (groups of cryptographers, hackers, online privacy advocates, and technology journalists) attempt to define Internet freedom through community practices such as technological development and descriptive portrayals of encryption within interconnected communities that seek to develop and define encryption software, as well as through the dissemination of these developments and portrayals within and outside of these communities. The discursive work of the cypherpunks, interrelated discourse communities, and related technology journalism is at the core of crypto-discourse. Through crypto-discourse, crypto-advocates employ encryption software as an arena of negotiation. The representation of encryption software serves as a battlefield in a larger discursive struggle to define the meaning of Internet freedom. Crypto-discourse illustrates how social practices have normative implications for Internet governance debates regarding Internet freedom and in particular expectations for state authorities to uphold online rights. The relationship between freedom and the state that these crypto-advocates articulate as a response to specific events excludes other possible positive notions of Internet freedom in which the state has an obligation to ensure the protection of online rights.
The internet is a set of software instructions (known as “protocols”) capable of transmitting data over networks. These protocols were designed to facilitate the movement of data across independently managed networks and different physical media, and not to survive a nuclear war as the popular myth suggests. The use of the internet protocols gives rise to technical, legal, regulatory, and policy problems that become the main concern of internet governance. Because the internet is a key component of the infrastructure for a growing digital economy, internet governance has turned into an increasingly high-stakes arena for political activity. The world’s convergence on the internet protocols for computer communications, coupled with the proliferation of a variety of increasingly inexpensive digital devices that can be networked, has created a new set of geopolitical issues around information and communication technologies. These problems are intertwined with a broader set of public policy issues such as freedom of expression, privacy, transnational crime, the security of states and critical infrastructure, intellectual property, trade, and economic regulation. Political scientists and International Relations scholars have been slow to attack these problems, in part due to the difficulty of recognizing governance issues when they are embedded in a highly technological context. Internet governance is closely related to, and has evolved out of, debates over digital convergence, telecommunications policy, and media regulation.
Elizabeth C. Hanson
The intellectual impetus for international communication research has come from a variety of disciplines, notably political science, sociology, psychology, social psychology, linguistics, anthropology, and, of course, communication science and international relations. Although highly diverse in content, international communication scholarship, past and current, falls into distinct research traditions or areas of inquiry. The content and focus of these have changed over time in response to innovations in communication technologies and to the political environment. The development and spread of radio and film in the 1920s and 1930s increased public awareness and scholarly interest in the phenomenon of the mass media and in issues regarding the impact on public opinion. The extensive use of propaganda as an instrument of policy by all sides in World War I, and the participation of social scientists in the development of this instrument, provided an impetus for the development of both mass communication and international communication studies. There was a heavy emphasis on the micro level effects, the process of persuasion. Strategic considerations prior to and during World War II reinforced this emphasis. World War II became an important catalyst for research in mass communication. Analytical tools of communication research were applied to the tasks of mobilizing domestic public support for the war, understanding enemy propaganda, and developing psychological warfare techniques to influence the morale and opinion of allied and enemy populations. During the Cold War, U.S foreign policy goals continued to shape the direction of much research in international communication, notably “winning hearts and minds” of strategically important populations in the context of the East-West conflict. As new states began to emerge from colonial empires, communication became an important component of research on development. “Development research” emphasized the role of the mass media in guiding and accelerating development. This paradigm shaped both national and international development programs throughout the 1960’s. It resurfaced in the 1980s with a focus on telecommunication, and again in the 1990s, in modified form under the comprehensive label “information and communication technologies for development.” Development communication met serious criticism in the 1970s as the more general modernization paradigm was challenged. The emergence of new information and communication technologies in the 1990s inspired a vast literature on their impact on the global economy, foreign policy, the nation state and, more broadly, on their impact on power structures and social change. The beginning of the 21st century marks a transition point as the scholarship begins to respond to multiple new forms of communication and to new directions taken by the technologies that developed and spread in the latter part of the previous century
Stefan H. Fritsch
International information and communication have become central cornerstones for global economic, political, social, and cultural actors, issues, structures, and processes. Accordingly, various social science disciplines have become interested in understanding international communication’s economic properties and also produced empirical evidence demonstrating its remarkable impact on global economic development. Subsequently, the relationship between technological evolution and the evolving economics of international communication has become of central importance to the analysis of international communication. Of particular relevance in this context is digitization’s impact on information and communication technologies and related digital conversion processes of once separated media and business sectors. In this context, the constantly evolving economic and technological properties of international information and communication systems and the economic opportunities/challenges they pose have also motivated or forced individuals, business enterprises, states, as well as international organizations to pursue structural and policy changes in order to reap the potential benefits of international information and communication.