US: Overview of Internet Legislation

As the birthplace of Internet, US is also the first country to implement Internet administration. At the inception of Internet, some Americans believed that the establishment of orders and rules of network space should depend on people’s self-discipline and the invisible hand – market while the government's administration was deemed as intervention of and control over the Internet. Confronted with the emergence of online pornography, virus, hacking and infringement of intellectual property rights with the evolvement of Internet, it dawned upon the American that the visible hand – government had to get involved in the formulation of rules on Internet and crack down the illegal activities by means of appropriate administration.


Legislation is the major approach for US to govern Internet. Apart from the nationwide laws and regulations, various states have issued their laws ad regulations by taking the factual features of local Internet application and established corresponding Internet administration systems in line with the particulars of the states. In addition, the Federal and the states have also attached great emphasis on the conformance of historically released laws and regulations with the era. For instance, Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act enacted in 1960s and 1970s in US have been the foundations for Electronic Communication Privacy Act (ECPA) and many other laws and regulations concerning Internet.


When many people still had no idea about the concept of Internet, US formulated Federal Computer System Protection Act in as early as 1977. As Internet was gradually popularized in 1980s and 1990s, US promulgated a series of laws and regulations relating to Internet in succession, such as Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Computer Security Act, Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), A Framework for Global Electronic Commerce and Domain Name Registration Rules, all of which connected with the rules formulation on various online behaviors including industry access, data protection, network communication, protection of consumers’ rights and interests as well as preventing and striking of online illegal acts such as fraud, slander, pornography and pirated contents. On the other hand, enhancement of children protection has constituted another focus for the regulation of Internet activities in US. Back in 1998, Children's Online Privacy Protection Act was passed in US. And US Department of Justice has especially formed a special task force to tackle the online crimes against the minors.


The Internet administration in US developed two new features in the 21st century:


(1) The first feature is that more efforts have been made to crack down the online terrorism information and supervise the activities related with terrorism over Internet. After the “9?11” Attack, both USA Patriot Act and Homeland Security Act had the provisions to authorize the government to monitor the Internet. US government or law enforcement authorities may monitor all Internet information that may jeopardize American homeland security and take such measures as shielding from the information. Moreover, Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010 authorized US federal government to shut down Internet in any emergency. According to UK media, the analysts of the Department of Homeland Security are also able to keep track of any potential hazardous information on the social media at any time by searching key words.


(2) The second feature lies in the acceleration of legislation and administrative intervention given the worries that the individual privacy may be leaked on the newly-emerged social websites or acquired illegally by network companies. In February of 2012, US government required the Internet companies like Google and Facebook to establish common privacy criteria and grant users more rights to control their online individual information.

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