Technology × Freedom

The Digital Revolution "Will Create an Epic Conflict"

June 23, 2017 invisiblehand

Adam Thierer reminds us of two decisions made 20 years ago this summer that allowed the Internet to become what it is today. First, the Supreme Court's Reno v. ACLU decision on June 26, 2017, which "struck down the Communications Decency Act’s provisions seeking to regulate online content under the old broadcast media standard." Second, the Clinton Administration's Framework for Global Electronic Commerce, released in July 1997, which "rejected a restrictive regulatory regime for commercial activities and instead recommended reliance on civil society, contractual negotiations, voluntary agreements, and industry self-regulation."

Thierer tempers his celebration with a word of caution:

Online platforms and digital technologies continue to come under attack from regulatory activists both here and abroad. Many governments continue to push back against these online speech and commercial freedoms, meaning we’ll need to redouble our efforts to highlight and defend the benefits of preserving these important victories.

Finally, as the underlying drivers of the Digital Revolution continue to spread into other segments of the economy, these freedoms will come into conflict with older top-down regulatory regimes for automobiles, aviation, medical technology, finance, and much more. This will create an epic conflict of governance visions between the Internet’s permissionless innovation model versus the precautionary, command-and-control regulatory regimes of the industrial age. We already see tension at work in policy deliberations over the Internet of Things, “big data,” driverless cars, commercial drones, robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, virtual reality, the sharing economy, and others.