Trusting (and Verifying) Online Intermediaries' Policing
THE NEXT DIGITAL DECADE, ESSAYS ON THE FUTURE OF THE INTERNET, Chapter 6, p. 347, Berin Szoka, Adam Marcus, eds., TechFreedom, Washington, D.C., 2010
21 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2011
Date Written: January 15, 2010
All is not well in the land of online self-regulation. However competently internet intermediaries police their sites, nagging questions will remain about their fairness and objectivity in doing so. Is Comcast blocking BitTorrent to stop infringement, to manage traffic, or to decrease access to content that competes with its own for viewers? How much digital due process does Google need to give a site it accuses of harboring malware? If Facebook censors a video of war carnage, is that a token of respect for the wounded or one more reflexive effort of a major company to ingratiate itself with the Washington establishment?
Questions like these will persist, and erode the legitimacy of intermediary self-policing, as long as key operations of leading companies are shrouded in secrecy. Administrators must develop an institutional competence for continually monitoring rapidly-changing business practices. A trusted advisory council charged with assisting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could help courts and agencies adjudicate controversies concerning intermediary practices. An Internet Intermediary Regulatory Council (IIRC) would spur the development of expertise necessary to understand whether companies’ controversial decisions are socially responsible or purely self-interested. Monitoring is a prerequisite for assuring a level playing field online.
Keywords: Tech Freedom, digital, FTC, FCC, IIRC, regulatory, Comcast, BitTorrent, blocking
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