Confederation of European Computer User Associations

Confédération Européenne des Associations d'Utilisateurs des Technologies de I'Information


Borderless Internet - Myth or Reality?

Global Citizen versus other interests

Whilst the Internet promises the Citizen participation in the Global Village with unimaginable benefits and opportunities, it has also exposed the Citizen to international criminals, fraudsters, saboteurs and terrorists etc. who are exploiting the benefits of carrying out illegal and unsocial activities in a virtually lawless and unpoliced international community.


Governments have been very slow in addressing the dangers that their citizens are exposed to by the Internet in spite of many efforts to bring the issues into the public domain for debate. CECUA has been working very hard with little success in raising political awareness since their conference on 1998 in Brussels entitled “The Citizen and the Global Information Society”.


There has been some work by governments, but they have not been very proactive with politicians hiding behind the fundamental issues by claiming that “the market knows best”, leading to developments and controls which favour commercial considerations rather than the rights and interests of the private citizen.


However, this is slowly changing with reaction to terrorist activities mainly in the USA when the power of the Internet for cheap and fast communication was a vital factor. But the government actions seem to have been at a national level geared to commercial interest rather than with International agreement, with citizens’ rights being slowly eroded in the name of security.


Recently, Jack Goldsmith and Timothy Wu published a significant article entitled “Digital Borders”in the January/February edition of Legal Affairs Magazine* ( in which it is pointed out how national law is now being unilaterally used to control activity on the Internet, and I recommend all politicians and users of the Internet to read it with care.


This development has happened largely as a result of the failure of the International Community to understand and police the Internet. Although there are some International moves, these are exceedingly slow and ineffective. Generally, the International Community is more interested in protecting its own position rather than making the Internet a safer place for their Citizens.


Well, this is just not good enough. National governments must not be allowed to control the Internet – all this does is to allow the larger nations to protect their own interests at the expense of other nations. A good example of this is the list of banned persons maintained by the Department of Commerce in the USA which bars the persons listed from trading on the Internet. (It mainly contains names of wanted terrorists etc.) Recently this resulted in an innocent UK citizen being barred from buying a computer over the Internet just because he had the same name as a wanted terrorist!


When is the International Community going to learn that the Internet has no political boundaries? When will the International Community understand how fast the Internet is growing? When will the International Community realise that they are losing all control and credibility and result in the Internet being controlled by powerful trading interests to their advantage and not for the Global community in general?


Stuart Goold

CECUA Honorary President


Nottingham, 23 January 2006



* With kind permission of Legal Affairs