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THE INTERPENETRATION OF TECHNICAL AND LEGAL DECISION-MAKING FOR THE INTERNET

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Not long after computer scientists first began working on the technical design of the network that ultimately became known as the Internet, in 1969, they began to document their discussions, information shared, and decisions made in a series of documents known as the Internet requests for comments that is still being used for this purpose 40 years later. A comprehensive inductive reading of these documents reveals that legal and policy issues were often raised or confronted in the course of resolving technical problems. In many of these instances, the technical decisions that resulted had law-like effects in the sense that they constrained or enabled the ways in which users can communicate and can access and use information over the Internet, whether or not such decisions supported or subverted legal decision-making, and whether or not legal decision-makers understood the societal implications of the technical decisions that were being made. This is one of the two ways in which technical and legal decision-making have become interpenetrated. The literature on legal engagement with problems generated by the technical features of the Internet is vast. This article appears within the nascent literature on technical engagement with legal problems. It does so in an effort to contribute to the building of a shared epistemic and decision-making space that involves both the technical and the legal communities.
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Keywords: e-Government; law; regulation; research methodology; social policy; systems design

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Communication, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI, USA

Publication date: April 1, 2010

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