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Private Actors in Cyberspace

Chapter 8

Invites the student to think specifically about the new types of actors which we can identify in the cyber environment. 


Considers the rise of international corporations like Google and Twitter as players within the international environment, and asks whether this necessarily leads to a waning of state power. It also looks at the responsibilities which such actors have taken on in the international environment, and asks whether technology actors are sufficient to do the jobs which they have reluctantly inherited in this new environment.

Learning Objectives

  • Define the following terms:Corporate Social responsibility, net neutrality, gatekeeping, active/passive global ethics, data monopoly, capabilities approach, natural monopoly

  • Applying the ‘uniqueness debate’ to argue that technology actors either do or do not have unique ethical responsibilities within the international system in comparison to other types of corporations

  • List economic and political objections to the development of monopolies, and argue for or against breaking up Facebook

  • Compare and contrast the evolution of US-based Facebook and China-based Ali Baba – in terms of their relationship to Government and their understanding of national responsibilities

Questions for Discussion


  1. Compare and Contrast the stance of Facebook and Alibaba in regards to ‘patriotism’ or government regulation.

    Why do you think the two firms act so differently in relation to their host nation’s and their policies? Give specific examples.

  2. Why are there so many identified conflicts of interests between google and US government, but NOT between Ali baba and Chinese government?

    What BENEFITS do BAT actors accrue from close relationship with government?

    What benefits does Chinese government get from allowing BAT to act relatively freely in the e-commerce space?

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