The changes resulting from the rise of the Internet are taking hold, and the legal community has yet to catch up to the way the world is now interacting. As our modes of business and daily interactions take place increasingly over the Web, the world is beginning to define the ways in which those exchanges will be characterized. This presents a new range of challenges for us in the legal field and as a global community, but it also presents an opportunity. Bringing the rule of law online will be an essential part of determining how we shape the future of global normative behavior and present an opportunity to redefine what we believe to be the right way to act, based not only on the multiplicity of laws as they stand, but rather based on a new organic democracy that will define itself in an harmonized way. The ability to negotiate, reach consensus, and resolve disputes online will be an essential set of skills for all who participate. But why does this new system of norms need to be defined in an haphazard fashion as countries everywhere come up with their own sets of laws to govern online behavior, leading to conflict and confusion?
Individuals from the online dispute resolution community have met regularly to examine the newest technologies and issues that are affecting justice in online interactions, and come this year to the United States to discuss topics like the role of privacy, identity and trust on the internet, and how they relate to justice.
This is where the role of trusted online communities comes into play. And one of the biggest factors in trust in online interactions is verification of and trust in identity. Just as a democracy depends upon the right of each citizen to their vote, access to justice for each individual in a globally based justice system depends upon being able to verify who is accessing the system, and making sure that the system is trustworthy in all respects, from the users to the design itself. Many individuals have spoken on the need to develop an "identity" layer of the internet that verifies user identity on top of the interactive web as a step toward solidifying trust in exchange and communication online. I believe this is the case, and that it will go hand in hand with the creation of what I call a "justice" layer -- a new definition of normative behavior for how we relate to one another, including trust in identity. This will be supported not only by the legal complex, but also by global consensus and collective action toward what we define as justice. The resolution of disputes online will become a knowledge set that the legal community and others will need to understand.
But for every answer, there appear to be many more questions, particularly when dealing with the cultural technicolor fabric of our planet. For example, how do we balance the necessity of democracy through digital identification with, as the European Commission has defined, the right to be forgotten? How much control can and should we have over the information compiled online about our person? How much control should our government have?
Innovation has been helping to address some of these questions. Start-ups like Qredo and Wickr are taking steps to develop technology that will allow users access to secure platforms and close to complete control over their online identity and information. Checks and balances, peer review and transparency will also play a part in any viable system.
The creation of a technology-enabled system of effective democracy will require all segments of society to participate. Industry has the opportunity to play a leading role in helping shape a "justice layer" of internet communication on top of the internet communication protocol it helped to build over 20 years ago. It will also require the participation of academia, a non-fearing legal system, and the global community as a whole to create a truly "we the people" system of online governance.