How is trust defined in Internet governance organisations? (Applied Ethics in not-for-profit Internet organisations, managing critical Internet resources – a case study on Trust)

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Miloshevic Evans, Desiree Zeljka
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University of Malta; DiploFoundation
Trust has emerged as a central issue in Internet governance (IG). It impacts the activity and setup of organisations, dictates user attitudes to institutions and technology and, in the era following the Snowden revelations is a key topic of discussion in many international forums. In this dissertation a specific group of important global IG organisations with distributed governance systems called Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), that manage allocation of global Internet resources namely the IP addresses and AS numbers are studied to discover the answer to our question: How the concept of trust is operationalised in their activities? The investigation is built from a comprehensive appreciation of how trust has traditionally been analysed in social science literature combined with research into the history and evolution of IG itself. The concepts developed were then applied to the RIRs through surveys and discussion with active members and stakeholders, and the results enabled the development of a concise framework of trust indicators that the author believes can contribute to the current worldwide debate on trust in IG, and form the basis of further investigations into this important and fascinating field. The framework tests showed that the concept of how trust is acted upon within the RIRs has similarities to many membership-based not-for-profit organisations, but it pointed to much specificity too. Members of studied IG organisations perceive the role of the board and relationship of their organisation with the wider Internet community as critical for continuing to have trust in the organisation, a non-transparent act of an organisation as potentially most damaging to trust, followed by external regulatory threats and deviation from policies while at the same time, in general, arguing for transparency and a slightly more conservative business predictability value over organisational core mission.