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ECPR Standing Group on the European Union 10th Biennial Conference LUISS, Rome

Stakeholder Governance in Standards Development Organisations: Exploring Mechanisms of the State, Market and Civil Society in Internet Governance

Civil Society
Policy Analysis
Policy Change
Panel Number
Panel Chair
Alison Harcourt
University of Exeter

09/09/2017 14:00 - 15:40
Building: BL07 P.A. Munchs hus Floor: 1 Room: PAM SEM7
Decisions on standards for the internet are taken by experts in international standard developing organisations such as the W3C or IETF. Although highly technical, these decisions affect the way in which citizens live and work on a daily basis therefore having wider social significance. The proposed Panel examines the role of experts in technical standards developing organisations (SDOs) for internet governance. It aims to contribute to the academic debates on international decision-making processes in unstructured environments. The panel works together to define mechanisms which shape expert decision making in SDOs for internet governance. Presenters are members of the ESRC funded project: International professional fora: a study of civil society organisation participation in internet governance ( The panel aims to contribute to the literature on the global governance of knowledge as well as providing insight on how decisions are made within SDOs.
Existing literature informs us that corporate actors dominate expert decision-making in international fora. It documents the erosion of state and public sector actors’ power due to globalisation with a move towards self-regulated systems of governance led by private sector actors (Braithwaite and Drahos, 2000; Picciotto 2011). Extant literature queries whether business regulation is still possible given the rise of self-regulation and the political power of global corporations, law firms and active-knowledge politics which dominate transnational legal orders (Delazay and Garth, 1998; Prosser, 2010). These developments raise fundamental questions about the representation of the public interest at the international level.

Although the literature is expansive on the interaction of corporate sector actors within international self-regulatory fora, we do not yet know much about the influence of external factors on expert decision-making within SDOs. Mattli and Büthe point to domestic (2011:14), institutional (2011:54, 60), market (2011:129, 212), and regional coordination mechanisms (2011: 95-96). Benkler (2000) and Farrell (2006) demonstrated how corporate actors were pressured into adopting standards advocated by states through ‘points of control’ such as threat of blocking software and national standard-setting. Indeed, differences between policies in the US and EU have created institutional ambiguity affecting actors’ preferences. Other authors demonstrate how the size and importance of a state’s market are key determinants of corporate actor behaviour (Drezner, 2004; Goldstein and Steinberg 2010).

Another key mechanism relates to the influence of external activists on SDO decision-making. Scholars writing on global activism tell us civil society organisations (CSOs) are gaining in influence at the international level. This literature views CSOs as ‘norms entrepreneurs’ (Finnemore and Sikkink 1998) promoting a ‘justice cascade’ (Sikkink, 2011). Recent literature has noted the rising power of civil society groups globally. Hall and Biersteker, in particular, identify activism and involvement by a “global civil society” to be highly effective at the international level. However, the different degrees and character of civil society activism in SDOs has not been addressed. This Panel addresses and takes forward ideas and evidence in the above literature by examining the mechanisms that influence global decision making. The cases under study are standards for wireless Internet use, privacy and music distribution.

Paper List

Title Details
International Technical Standards Development as Internet Governance – The Case of Wireless Internet Communication View Paper Details
Mechanisms Affecting Global Standardisation Efforts on Integrating Blockchains into the Web View Paper Details
SDO Decision-making on Privacy Standards View Paper Details
The Effect of Coercive State Mechanisms on Expert Decision-making in Music Distribution SDOs View Paper Details
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