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What Is Internet Regulation? Your Guide to the Internet and Its Rules

If there's one thing that we can all agree on is that the Internet is amazing. We use it if we want to talk to anyone around the world. We use it to look up some information, to see a movie, or to do virtually anything.

Still, with all this free speech possibility and access to intellectual property, we should also keep in mind that the Internet is regulated. But what is Internet regulation, and how exactly does it affect us? Read on to find out.

What Is the Internet?

To put it as simply as possible, the Internet is a network of hundreds of millions of computers with their data connected all over the world.

To the public, the Internet is known as the World Wide Web - and each of us has a place on that web. By following that web and its sites, we gain access to information in the form of text, video, and pictures. 

We can find all types of Internet services that we can use. However, the Internet still remains a work in progress - one that will keep evolving with time. Thanks to the network connecting everyone, the Internet improved communication and data transfer for everyone.

What Is the Regulation of the Internet Service?

So, we have all that data going around the Internet, which is actually pretty nice and convenient. However, where there is a lot of data, there will also be those wanting to take advantage of that data.

This is why along with the Internet came Internet regulation as well. And with Internet regulation, gaining access to certain types of data is controlled or restricted. 

The first acts of regulation occurred in the 90s. However, the first official act that set the law was the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It put together a few rules over how the Internet should be used.

Think of the regulation as the spider to the web. It keeps things nicely webbed so that it won't be broken down by a breach.

In certain circumstances, Internet regulation also takes the form of "censorship." This information control can be carried out by a variety of parties for different purposes. It may differ from one country to the other, but overall, it has the following purposes:

  • To prevent people from watching sensitive or harmful content
  • Prevent people from getting access to copyrighted information
  • Monitor the vast number of people that are currently using the Internet
  • Keep cybercrimes under control

When it comes to censorship laws, there are several types of internet censorship. Some of them are more friendly to the users compared to others. With that in mind, it is an essential measure to keep things under control.

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Who Regulates the Internet?

The one in charge of regulating the Internet is the Government. Each country will have its own Internet laws, which is why it is easier to gain access to content and information in some countries compared to others. 

In the United States, for example, there are several agencies that regulate the Internet. Some of these are: 

These aren't the only agencies of the Government responsible for that. Each agency regulates over their own intellectual properties based on the country's rules. 

This is why the Internet in Europe looks so much different from the Internet in Korea, for example. All governments have their own laws. 

What Does Internet Regulation Mean?

The Internet has its perks indeed, and we cannot really imagine what we'd do without it. With that in mind, over the years, there were many users who abused the power of the Internet service. 

This is why regulation was placed in order. By regulation, we understand:

The Regulation of the Things We Say

This occurs most often on social media platforms. Scrolling on social media, you probably noticed that there is someone (a person or an algorithm) that decides what you can and cannot say in your speech. 

For example, regulation may occur if you start abusing speech through comments. Calling someone names on Facebook, racism or simply saying something that is considered a violation will likely end up in a ban. 

Regulation for Produced Data

When data is produced and posted on the Internet, regulations may also be made to protect it. There are many advantages and disadvantages of data privacy laws. Regulations such as GDPR, CCPA and so on are in charge of this. 

Certain types of content, for example, maybe censored and cannot be posted on the Internet. The algorithm of the platform where it was posted will catch the content and either take it down or give you a warning directly. 

It's pretty much the reason why someone from Europe might not have access to a certain type of content in the U.S. - or vice-versa. Internet regulations prevent that from happening. 

Regulations of the Things We See

Overall, this is mostly connected to your Internet provider or your household. In this case, your access to certain websites might be blocked. On a small scale, it might be something as simple as a parent setting a parental filter.

On the larger scale, it might be because your government decided that there are some things you can or cannot see. Here, we are talking about countries such as (you guessed), Iran or China.

What Are the Internet Laws?

Internet laws, also referred to as cyber laws, represent the legal aspect of the Internet. The difference between Internet law and typical law is that the web option is not focused on just one field. It focuses on multiple others as well.

There are many Internet laws, including:

  • Laws that govern over the  Internet Service Provider (ISP)
  • Laws connected to website creation
  • Laws concerning conflict resolution over domain names
  • Laws involving online trademarks
  • Laws regarding how you can link to a site
The updated Internet is still continuously evolving, with users always having a new law to consider. To this day, there is still a bit of uncertainly over what is permitted on the Internet and what isn't.

The Internet law may vary from platform to platform as well. Each website may have its own idea of data protection. For example, Facebook's data protection law may have different clauses in comparison to Reddit or Twitter.

The general or more specific laws of the Internet may also be broken down into the following categories:

  • Intellectual property laws
  • Privacy law
  • Contract law
  • Harassment law
  • Cybercrime law
  • Data protection law
  • Cybersecurity law

A lot of these laws might just end up overlapping with one another. For example, a cyber breach might fall within the ranks of a cybercrime, whereas a contract signed online would have to meet several data protection clauses.

Very often, a judge will have to apply a different law system to aid the companies running the websites. They would also do what they can to resolve the matter through common sense before applying the law.

Why Is It Important to Regulate the Internet?

There may be times when we find Internet regulations to be highly inconvenient. It restricts us from accessing a lot of content, and it also prevents us from speaking exactly what is on our minds. 

Censor of speech not only limits what you say, but also what other information you may read. Plus, since you don't know who controls these regulations, you're not aware of what's acceptable on the web and what isn't.

That being said, regulations for this kind of intellectual property are important for a variety of good reasons. Here are the main reasons:

Setting the Limits of Common Sense

Let's be honest; while there is a lot of information on the updated Internet, there is also a lot of content that no one should actually see. 

Here, we talk about things that could potentially endanger someone's life, like for example the Momo Challenge. Some things that go viral on the Internet should never see the light of day. 

This is why we have Internet regulations. If a certain type of content is censored, then many web users could be spared engaging in harmful activities online. 

Preventing the Spread of Fake News

If there is anything that the past pandemic taught us, it's that the Internet is packed with fake news. This is why many countries closely monitor the words and content appearing online, especially on Facebook. 

This can not only prevent users from being misinformed and potentially putting their life in danger. It can also prevent incidents such as false ads. The censorship offers protection against fraudulent communication and misinformation.

Putting a Stop to Harmful Activities

Every computer that has access to the Internet can also fall victim to the dark corners of the web. With that in mind, it's incredible how easily some of these websites are found. 

Many of these websites are dedicated to illegal activities such as child porn, sex or drug trafficking, as well as other similar illicit activities.  

Protecting Data Against Identity Theft

Identity theft is a common problem these days. Where there is content, there is information that can be stolen. Regulations of the Internet prevent that from happening. 

The less data there is on the Internet, the more data protection you have. This could prevent you from potentially falling victim to a hacker as you use a certain Internet service.

What Are the Different Types of Internet Regulations?

There are several ways in which the Internet can be regulated, most of them having two roles: controlling certain Internet aspects and censorship of data.

With those roles in mind, these are the types of Internet regulation that you'll come across:

Laws 

Laws are attempts to legally handle the issues of the Internet. The law exists so that the behavior on the Internet is kept under control. Internet law often applies to aspects such as gambling, fraud, and child porn.

Architecture
In this case, architecture has nothing to do with physical buildings. Instead, it deals with Internet limitations of technology. 

It involves everything that affects how information is delivered, from encryption to search engines and coding.

Norms

Everything we do is based on norms - and this includes the wide net. This is why Internet regulations are also dominated by norms, to make up for what formal regulations miss.

For example, a moderator may delete certain comments from a thread that they find as offensive. By deleting what the users say, they go beyond the law and regulate via social norms.

Markets

The online marketplace could also affect the things that happen as you browse your computer. For instance, if a concept has no popularity, Internet regulations will eventually make it disappear.

The same thing goes for high demand. If there are way too many suppliers, the sellers will have to offer options that are more unique and distinct.

What Is an Example of Internet Regulation?

One common example of Internet Regulation is the European General Data Protection Regulation - or, in short, GDPR. This updated Internet regulation has been around for quite some time lately.

Before the basis of GDPR was placed, people in European countries were asking for comprehensive regulation of the Internet. The law of the GDPR protects how the data is used, respecting your privacy while using only what is necessary. The latter would be used in order to provide services. 

The GDPR law isn't usually seen as a hard set of rules, but rather as a guide or a framework that one might want to follow as they are browsing the net. It acts on several principles:

  1. Lawfulness
  2. Purpose limitation
  3. Fairness and transparency
  4. Confidentiality and integrity (security)
  5. Data minimization
  6. Accountability
  7. Storage limitation

Most of these rules have been active in the law since the making of the Data Protection Act of 1998. Only one clause of the law is relatively new - namely the one concerning accountability.

As a consumer, GDPR tells you about how your data is going to be used. In the event that your personal details are used somewhere else,  you will be notified of it either by email or another point of contact.

Think about the way Google obsessively asks you if you logged from another platform. While this might apply to the regulation laws of every country, it has also been updated to comply with GDPR. This way, you can at least know where your data can be used - and if needed, it allows you to reclaim your data.

GDPR also prevents you from seeing copyrighted information. It's one of the reasons why you may not be able to get on a page or download something, even though you can see it on the Internet. 

The law would also keep you from looking at sensitive content, hiding it - and allowing you to see it only if you really want to. Think about the way in which sensitive pictures are hidden on Facebook, and you have to click in order to see them.

While this may be seen as a private matter of Facebook, it is mostly tied to GDPR.

The Verdict on Internet Regulation

There aren't any universal patterns to regulate the Internet, but we do have a few ideas on what this set of rules does for Internet users. Internet regulation and data privacy are important because it brings fairness and Internet safety under one law of the country - protecting not only your data, but also keeping you from seeing harmful content. Internet regulation may seem like a set of limitations, but in truth, it was made to help and protect the users.