The government has a set list of responsibilities to its citizens, such as maintaining a military and paying for roads. But when it comes to interfering with private business, that list narrows. Americans chafe at too many regulations. That comes with our love of freedom(s).
Some things need to be regulated, like food and medicine. We put food and medicine into our kids. But when it comes to the Internet, We the People tend to appreciate the most laissez-faire approach possible. Emphasis on possible.
Politico reported recently on a draft executive order from the White House that targets supposed anti-conservative bias on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter: "The White House is circulating drafts of a proposed executive order that would address allegations of anti-conservative bias by social media companies, according to a White House official and two other people familiar with the matter--a month after President Donald Trump pledged to explore 'all regulatory and legislative solutions' on the issue."
Just knowing these conversations are taking place in the background is worrisome enough. Since the Internet's rise in the 1990s, the government has mostly left companies in the digital space to self-regulate. This has allowed the digital economy to grow and flourish, providing new services, products and jobs for millions of people across the country and world.
When government sticks its nose in the private sector, that flourishing tends to slow.
To wit: If someone feels that Facebook is stifling his opinion for political reasons, the best solution is to leave Facebook. It's a private product. Nobody is forced to use Facebook. Should the company do something to make its users angry, those users can stop using it, as a good number of them have chosen to do each time a massive data leak is revealed.
In the free market, we vote with our wallets to support companies or allow them to continue without our patronage. When it comes to Facebook and Twitter, you vote with your time wallet. Don't like what Silicon Valley is doing? Stop using its products. Simple and neat. And free.
Asking bodies like the FCC and FTC to prep for digital oversight of content could lead to dangerous outcomes. Does America really want Big Brother deciding on the definition of censorship when the parties change positions every few years? Probably not.
The 1996 Communications Decency Act has two brilliant provisions for online companies that protect "online platforms from liability for content their users post and empowers the companies to remove content without fear of liability," according to Politico. That portion of the legislation is called Section 230.
Isn't it amazing how, in a world where technology is changing rapidly, the nation's leaders in 1996 foresaw online content regulation being an issue and devised a solid policy for handling the problem, a solution that still works more than 20 years later? Technology legislation rarely stays relevant for that long.
And the solution for a government looking to step in and police digital content or the deletion thereof is pretty simple for all to understand: Don't.
When you have businesses that depend primarily on users generating content, be it cat videos or political rants, those businesses have a tightrope to walk when policing "harmful" content.
Sometimes the decisions on what to remove get really difficult to make. Does Facebook take down a picture of a mother breastfeeding her child? How about a graphic image of an aborted fetus posted as a Planned Parenthood protest? If the KKK creates an event on Facebook for its coming rally, does the site allow that to stay up?
But the one constant variable in all of these questions is the government has no place in those decisions.
Keep your hands off the Internet, Uncle Sam.
Editorial on 08/14/2019
Print Headline: Internet exploring