Regulatory Patterns of the Internet Development: Expanding the Role of Private Stakeholders through Mediatized “Self-regulation”

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This article studies the Internet from an evolutionary point of view, based on historic analysis, to confirm institutional change predictions suggested by Utterback’s innovation development theory. It explores the appearance of rules and the consolidation of public and private initiatives that could enhance the capacity of the private sector to coregulate in the digital sphere, which is especially relevant to the field of electronic commerce-related transactions. This institutional review distinguishes between two distinct layers of the Internet. Also, formal and informal regulatory patterns are identified in their evolutionary stages, revealing the prevailing models: unregulated, self-regulated, co-regulated, or regulated. These conceptual associations aim to provide a framework scheme to further study specific topics in the fields of Internet governance, digital economy, and the information society. This primer should also induce interdisciplinary research, for better understanding on how rules influence digital innovation and behaviour, in practice. Implicit in this account is that most of the credit for the efficient development of these technologies, in their two layers, during their first stages, might be attributed to the availability of collective, collaborating, or independent self-regulatory capacity. The most immediate observations show a growing tendency towards over-prescriptive regulatory systems, promoted to control its use and content; incompatible with the needs and interests of the majority of stakeholders. A concluding claim is that the Internet and telecommunication technologies in general, considered as enabling mediums, would benefit from dynamic and mixed regulatory solutions, according to and depending on whether their object is their infrastructure or the surface layer of its applications.

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Tallinn Law School, Department of Law, School of Business and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology

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