"Cuius Regio, Eius Religio, Omnium Spatium?” State Sovereignty in the Age of the Internet

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Information & Security: An International Journal, Volume 7, p.15-27 (2001)


globalisation, Internet, Internet and governance, Internet and state sovereignty/authority


The belief that sovereignty is at the eleventh hour has become more widespread with the progress of the globalization phenomenon. The notion that sovereignty is somehow being transformed by the process of economic globalization and that this is being exacerbated by the Internet—one of the cutting-edge tools of globalization—has become an almost uncritically accepted fact. Large swathes of public opinion in industrialized democracies have been mesmerized by the pervasive equation that more globalization (and more Internet) equals less sovereignty. In this article, we attempt to dissect the proposition that more Internet equals a further decrease in state sovereignty. We argue that, while state sovereignty is unmistakably declining, the Internet is, in the best case, one more element contributing to that decline. Indeed, in some instances the Internet can even strengthen sovereignty. Two hypotheses have been considered: the first—the “technologist/general belief”—summarizes the view of several futurologists and technologists as well as many informed individuals. Their main claim is that the more the Internet grows, the more sovereignty will decline. The second hypothesis—“politics matters”—points out that circumstances are more complex, and that the Internet growth does not immediately translate to eroding states’ authority, but can even increase it. It is thus imperative to analyze the process of “politicization” of the Internet in order to identify the correct causal explanation. We have analyzed four cases in which the Internet has contributed to increasing and/or decreasing sovereignty: ICANN and other non-governmental organizations of Internet governance, the French Yahoo!, taxation on the Internet and cybercrime. The four cases appear to support the validity of our second hypothesis. We have however been careful in considering this paper as an “exploratory study” of the problem of Internet and sovereignty, which, in fact, require more detailed research to produce conclusive evidence.