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Centre for Transformative Innovation & Swinburne Law School: Research Seminar

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Date: Thursday 13 April 2017
Venue: Moot Court, TD120, Hawthorn Campus

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The Anatomy of Neoliberal Internet Governance: A Queer Critical Political Economy Perspective

Dr Monika Zalnieriute


This presentation moves beyond narratives of the liberatory role of the Internet and digital technologies for marginalized communities and discriminated groups by examining the current neoliberal model of Internet governance from a queer critical economy perspective. In particular, it discusses how the neoliberal model has been used to repress and limit the rights of queer people (among others) and how such repressions have been justified.

I start by outlining the celebrated dominant narrative of the liberatory potential of the Internet for various oppressed and marginalised groups such as women, ethnic and racial minorities, before introducing the emerging counter-narrative, which suggests that these evolving technologies enable new modes of control and suppression that can be exercised by way of the communication mediums themselves.

In the second part, I discuss the anatomy of the neoliberal model of Internet governance and introduce the concept of the Information-Industrial-Complex (IIC) and its significance in the political economy of the Internet. I explain how the IIC has enabled powerful state and non-state actors to repress the rights of queer people both in the global South and North.

The third part focuses on the ways in which the repression of queer rights on the Internet, as well as the structurally unjust system of Internet governance, built around the needs of the IIC, is maintained and justified. The prevailing narratives for justifying and sustaining the current Internet governance model are juxtaposed to those deployed in other areas of international politics and law, such as ‘pinkwashing’, to achieve strategic geopolitical ends and maintain the (im)balances of global power and economy.

The presentation concludes that such similarities are unsurprising, given that the Internet is a socio-technical system, which is not simply a neutral technology (like is often mistakenly assumed), but rather reflects normative political bargains and continuing battles for power and resources. In the fast-changing and complex reality of the information economy, the ‘struggle for new rights’ — both offline and online — for queer communities and other discriminated groups around the globe inevitably has to continue. This presentation aims to reveal the power disparities involved in information exchange and debunk the justifications that support such disparities in order to better understand the state of the art and open the way for new strategies of civil resistance.

About the speaker

Dr. Monika Zalnieriute is a human rights scholar and advocate, working in the area of Internet policy, privacy and freedom of expression; and the rights of marginalized groups online. She is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Melbourne Law School at the University of Melbourne in Australia and holds a PhD in Law from European University Institute in Florence, Italy. Monika believes that research only matters if it has a strong and tangible impact well beyond academia; and thus is actively engaged both within academic, as well as civil society and policy-making circles.

Monika is also a visiting Fellow at the Center for Media, Data and Society at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, and a founding Director of a researched-based non-governmental advocacy organization ‘ZEPHIRO: Progressive Platform for Human Rights’ in Vilnius, Lithuania. She is an expert with the European Union, Council of Europe, World Health Organization and a number of non-governmental organizations; and often delivers talks and represents civil society interests at various international Internet policy gatherings and international workings groups, such as the United Nation Internet Governance Forum, EuroDIG, International Working Group on Data Protection in Telecommunications, Council of Europe Committee on Data Protection, and Asia-Pacific Internet Governance Forum, among others. Monika is currently serving on the Executive Committee of the Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group (NCSG) within Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and works towards the strengthening of the human rights protection within ICANN policies and procedures in particular.

This research seminar is brought to you by Swinburne Law School and the Centre for Transformative Innovation. Join our monthly seminar series - check the Faculty of Business and Law events page for future seminars.

Contact Information: Jake Goldenfein
Email: Tel: +61 3 9214 5866