Virtual Roadblocks: The Securitisation of the Information Superhighway


  • A T. Kingsmith York University



Copenhagen School, securitisation theory, Internet, desecuritisation, hypermedia, macrosecuritisation,


The Internet we know today is both content filtered and packet shaped. Subsequently, it is not the free operating zone of meta-space early proponents expected. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a multitude of actors have shown an increased willingness to intervene and control communication via the Internet with precision and effectiveness. This paper employs the Copenhagen School’s conceptualisation of securitisation at the macro level to address the issue of global Internet filtering from a “network” position between traditional “national” security and critical “individual” security. It looks at the ways in which intervention into the Internet’s infrastructure is leveraged for governance through various research programs such as Ronald Deibert’s Open Net Initiative, which probes all aspects of a national information infrastructure over the long term, concluding that the scope, scale, and sophistication of global Internet filtering are increasing in non-transparent fashions.

It should come as no surprise that since its dissemination, authoritarian regimes such as China, Iran and, Saudi Arabia have actively engaged in Internet filtering practices. What is troublesome is that advanced industrialised countries including Canada, Germany, and the United States have also followed suit. Reasons for doing so include: the securitisation of information communication after 9/11, to restricting access to material involving the sexual exploitation of children as well as ‘extremist’ websites. Considering these securitising moves, this paper argues that the more that filtering practices are withheld from public scrutiny and accountability, the more temping it is for framing authorities to employ these tools for illegitimate reasons such as the stifling of both opposition and civil society networks. Furthermore, due to increased connectivity, transparent Internet requires desecuritisation of social agents and international security structures in order to ensure more free information.