In 1648, the Treaty of Westphalia was signed, ending 30 years of war across Europe and bringing about the sovereignty of states. The rights of states to control and defend their own territory became the core foundation of our global political order, and it has remained unchallenged since.
In 2010, a delegation of countries came to an obscure agency of the United Nations with a strange request: to inscribe those same sovereign borders onto the digital world.
In 2010, a delegation of countries – including Syria and Russia – came to an obscure agency of the United Nations with a strange request: to inscribe those same sovereign borders onto the digital world. “They wanted to allow countries to assign internet addresses on a country by country basis, the way country codes were originally assigned for phone numbers,” says Hascall Sharp, an independent internet policy consultant who at the time was director of technology policy at technology giant Cisco.
After a year of negotiating, the request came to nothing: creating such boundaries would have allowed nations to exert tight controls over their own citizens, contravening the open spirit of the internet as a borderless space free from the dictates of any individual government.