Protecting the Internet Without Destroying It

Johnathan Zittrain in the Boston Review:

We need a strategy that addresses the emerging security troubles of today’s Internet and PCs without killing their openness to innovation. This is easier said than done, because our familiar legal tools are not particularly attuned to maintaining generativity. A simple regulatory intervention—say, banning the creation or distribution of deceptive or harmful code—will not work because it is hard to track the identities of sophisticated wrongdoers, and, even if found, many may not be in cooperative jurisdictions. Moreover, such intervention may have a badly chilling effect: much of the good code we have seen has come from unaccredited people sharing what they have made for fun, collaborating in ways that would make businesslike regulation of their activities burdensome for them. They might be dissuaded from sharing at all.

We can find a balance between needed change and undue restriction if we think about how to move generative approaches and solutions that work at one “layer” of the Internet—content, code, or technical—to another.