The Internet as a social contract

Kenneth Wayne Sayles, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

The Internet is a complex network, with both physical and virtual aspects, and is composed of a vast community of individuals at various levels. This complexity makes exploring ethical issues on the Internet difficult because the many relationships that occur among the individual Internet entities make Internet governance difficult and varied. But the social contract theories of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau can provide a practical way of understanding Internet governance by investigating these relationships that have formed among the individuals of the Internet through their interactions. Previous research investigated using social contract theory for Internet governance, but it was limited to Rousseauean social contract theory and it did not give due consideration to the physical structure of the Internet which contributes to existing Internet governance. Research conducted for this thesis shows that Hobbesian and Lockean principles are also at work on the Internet, and it shows how the physical aspect of the Internet must be considered along with the virtual aspect of the Internet. This research showed that it is possible to understand the Internet, both its physical and virtual aspects, and the various relationships of individual Internet entities at all levels through the classical social contract theories of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. This understanding then makes it possible to navigate the complexity of Internet governance as a first step in exploring Internet ethics.^

Subject Area

Philosophy

Recommended Citation

Sayles, Kenneth Wayne, "The Internet as a social contract" (2010). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1483835.
http://digitalcommons.utep.edu/dissertations/AAI1483835

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