Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



There is no single answer to the question of who runs the Internet. Is it the United States, often seen as the hegemon of the Internet, home to so many of the world’s leading Internet enterprises? Is it China, which erects a “Great Firewall” to assert control over the portion of the Internet available in China? Is it the European Union, which extends its power globally through its data protection regime, designating countries as “adequate” or (implicitly) “inadequate” to receive its data? Is it ICANN, the California not-for-profit organization that controls how Internet addresses are allocated? Is it the World Wide Web Consortium, which develops standards for the web’s communication’s protocols? Is it the United Nations, which periodically asserts pressure through organs like the International Telecommunications Union or through international meetings? Is it the World Trade Organization, which regulates the barriers that governments erect against international trade? Is it telecommunications providers such as AT&T and Comcast on whose wires and beams information flows? Is it Facebook, which recently connected a billion people in one day? Is it Google, where the world often begins its search for information?

In reality, all of the above, and many more, can claim a share of Internet governance. This chapter will set out an overview of how the Internet is currently governed, as well as some of the key controversies in both the procedure and substance of Internet governance.

Publication Citation

Published in Research Handbook on the Politics of International Law (Wayne Sandholtz & Christopher A. Whytock eds., Edward Elgar Publishing 2017), pp. 418-442.