Should the Internet be Regulated?

Should the Internet be Regulated?

Quick Announcement: Following the testimony of Frances Haugen to the US Senate, Facebook's vice president of integrity, Guy Rosen, published a blog post in which he defended Facebook's policies against hate speech, claiming that the prevalence of hate speech on the platform has dropped 50% over the past nine months. If you would like to know more about the recent leaks surrounding Facebook's practices on divisive content, you can read our two posts about them here and here.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week, Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet, the corporation that owns Google, called for a global framework of cyberspace to curb threats to cybersecurity. Using the comparison of the Geneva Conventions, a group of treaties signed by 196 nations in 1949 to govern the rules of conduct in war, he claimed that cyberspace lacks any universal set of conventions that could decrease the incidence of cyber crime. He then called upon national governments to move the development of such laws and norms to the top of their agendas.

The internet is a relatively new medium when compared to older forms of communication like radio, television, and print. Arguably, many of the cybersecurity problems we've discussed in our coverage of the tech world arise from the unpredictability of dealing with a new medium, especially when the technology that supports it is always changing. As such, the question of whether there should be greater regulatory mechanisms for the internet has now entered the public conversation. Piggy backing on the post from last week, we're going to briefly explore the arguments both for and against greater regulation of cyber space so that our readers can make a more informed decision on where they stand.

The Cases For and Against Regulation

One of the biggest arguments for regulating the internet relates to user privacy. Franklin Foer, writing for The Atlantic, expressed this point of view in his aptly titled 2018 essay, "The Case for Regulating the Internet." According to Foer and others like him, tech platforms have become too reliant on extracting user data to make money. Such a practice "aims to surveil users to generate the insights that will keep them 'engaged' on its site and to precisely target them with ads." He proposes the creation of a Data Protection Agency, similar to the already existing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to enforce national rules for tech platforms, especially as it concerns user data. The thinking goes that such an agency would create an institutional means of preventing exploitative business practices in the tech world. Foer doesn't discuss cybersecurity in his article, but arguably having a centralized safety valve on the way data is collected could preempt cyber criminals from stealing people's data.  In addition to the question of user data, the ease with which extremist political actors have used the internet to attract followers and coordinate attacks has led to calls from some regulators for greater control of online speech.

On the other hand, there's the fear that regulating the internet could lead to greater restrictions on content creation. The ALCU, for example, has come out against content regulations, citing a Supreme Court case from 1997, which ruled that internet speech is protected under the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Additionally, skeptics of regulations worry that new laws would place undue pressure on businesses to comply with Byzantine codes of conduct. Writing for the Washington Post, former FCC commissioner Robert M. McDowell, states in a 2014 editorial that deregulation of the internet enabled its spread throughout the world, "bringing freedom and prosperity to millions." He claims that creating more regulations would inevitably hobble the medium's ability to reach new people and needlessly constrict businesses' ability to operate freely and profitably.

As you can see the debate surrounding internet regulations is complex and multifaceted. Firms need someone in their corner to help them navigate both the internet as it currently exists and any changes in regulations that might affect their operations. If you need help planning for cybersecurity threats or figuring out how to comply with various regulations while using technology, feel free to reach out to Titan Tech to learn more.

And join us next week for more tech news.