Cyberwar is coming. In fact, it’s already happened. As military organizations and governments become more reliant on digital technology, that very technology becomes a site for potential conflict.
From an American position, the internet is a crucial site for contemporary economics, cultural exchange, political organization, socialization, and even foreign policy. It’s current “open” principles have supposedly mapped “free market” values into its very technical architecture. But reliance on that openness comes with the price of security and enforcement. Who shall protect American interests on the web? Or should they even be protected?
In this paper I wrote for my M.Phil studies at Cambridge, I examine the development of ‘network imperialism’ as an emergent component of American military, economic and foreign policy. Analyzing the creation of US Cybercommand and the Intellectual Property task forces to root out online piracy, I argue that the broader American “imperial” project of the last half century is being continued online.
In many ways, this paper is more interested in opening a conversation about American action online than making judgements about it. For perhaps the American “network imperialism” is a crucial part of allowing web technologies, communities, and economies to flourish has they have. Or perhaps, this “imperialism” has defined who gets to be successful in an internet defined by American companies, policy, and technical power.