Monday, February 7, 2011

Model United Nations: Cyberlaw

This past weekend I attended the Model United Nations Program hosted by the University of Chicago. I spent many loooong hours as a delegate of Venezuela in the Legal Committee. The Legal Committee’s goal was to form a consensus on cyberlaw (the alternate topic which we did not discuss was nongovernmental organizations or NGO’s). As a representative of Venezuela, I tried to stay true to the country’s policies, even when they conflicted with the majority’s perspective or my own views. Overall, it was a learning experience in cooperation and persuasion.

Here are a few words and phrases that were central to our discussions and play key roles in the topic of cyberlaw.

Cyberwarfare-Actions by a nation-state to penetrate another nation's computers or networks for the purposes of causing damage or disruption. What is a way to defend against a cyber war or a cyber-attack? Cyber Army! Estonia is the first country to have a volunteer cyber army. This NPR article describes Estonia’s Cyber Army as a force of programmers, computer scientists and software engineers who make up a Cyber Defense League, a volunteer organization that in wartime would function under a unified military command.

Jurisdiction-The geographic area over which authority extends; legal authority; the authority to hear and determine causes of action. This was probably one of the most controversial words in my committee. First of all, many delegates failed to use this word correctly. Secondly, cyberlaw is an issue that extends across several countries (or maybe over no actual land at all if you think about it). One possible solution to the question of jurisdiction is to declare cyberspace as a new global space or Common Heritage of Mankind. As a committee, we didn’t utilize this form of jurisdiction very often. Instead, most countries (including me and my partner as Venezuela) argued for national sovereignty. It became a very touchy subject. Even Wikipedia says that a cyber crime may involve the laws of several jurisdictions such as
1. the laws of the state/nation in which the user resides,
2. the laws of the state/nation that apply where the server hosting the transaction is located, and
3. the laws of the state/nation which apply to the person or business with whom the transaction takes place.

Net Neutrality- The principle that ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) should treat all content equally, regardless of content type or origin, instead of prioritizing some content. ISP’s drive internet traffic to websites and the issues lies in the fact that ISP’s direct internet users to certain websites more often based on payments.

The internet has become so vital in the world today; we even debated whether or not access to the internet is a human right! By reading this blog post you've even proved the widespread influence and importance of the internet today. A consensus on cyberlaw is, in my opinion, an important topic for the actual UN to address.

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