Free Speech Scores A Major Victory With Net Neutrality’s End
Article from Reason by Nick Gillespie.
Today marks the end of the net neutrality rules enacted in 2015. Passed after President Barack Obama actively pushed for it, the “Open Internet Order” allowed the the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate the business practices of internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile carriers under regulations originally designed for the old Bell Telephone monopoly.
Supporters of net neutrality, including companies such as Netflix, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon, argue that ISPs have too much control over the “pipes” of the Internet and would engage in all sorts of content discrimination absent such rules.
My bet: The internet will continue to improve, both in terms of the speed of connection and the range of content, applications, and experiences we’ll be accessing. As economist and net neutrality critic Tom Hazlett suggests, there may well be “paid prioritization” and continuing attempts to build “walled gardens” like Facebook’s, but they will flourish or die based on whether they serve consumers’ interests and needs. The advent of 5G and other technologies that will add to the competitive marketplace for internet access will make current arguments about net neutrality completely moot.
At the same time, there is a low-grade war on free expression going on in the country. Most, if not all, of that is happening at the platform level or from the government, not the easily vilified ISPs. That’s one of the takeaways from the recent congressional testimony of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Republicans and Democrats alike told the social-media magnate they wanted to regulate his business sector, and he happily agreed. Twitter, Google (including YouTube), and other companies are policing speech more than ever and eliminating, demonetizing, and punishing “bad” actors, sometimes to curry favor with the government and sometimes to curry favor with users. The “safe harbor” provision known as Section 230 that long protected websites and ISPs from being prosecuted for crimes committed by their users has been “decimated” by new laws aimed at ending sex trafficking. In this context, anything that takes away the government’s power to govern the internet has to be seen as a win for free speech.
Read the entire article at Reason.