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The Huge Hidden Public Costs (>$1.5T) of U.S. Internet Industrial Policy

This post introduces a new white paper here with a first-of-its-kind, cost-estimation model of the cumulative hidden public costs of U.S. Internet industrial policy* entitled: “Internet Platform Corporate Welfare and Leechonomics.” *U.S. Internet-first, industrial policy in the 1996 Telecom Act, effectively exempted only Internet companies from: all U.S. communications law, regulation, and public responsibilities; normal non-communications Federal/State regulation; and normal civil liability for what happens via their platforms and business models.

Nutshell Summary: Sweeping Government exemptions and immunities from risks and costs overwhelmingly favor zero-sum, parasitic policy arbitrage and corporate welfare, which perversely fosters unproductive “leechonomics.” U.S. Internet policy most incents platform business that maximizes arbitrage spreads, i.e. taking maximal societal risk that un-immunized competitors can’t take, where the benefits can be capitalized by platforms, and the costs socialized to the public (>$1.5T), because the government has only exempted and immunized platforms from normal accountability and responsibility for consumer welfare. 

How Did Americans Lose Their Right to Privacy?

Americans want their right to privacy restored.

Prior to 1996, Americans had a well-established, offline right to privacy based on the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and several strong federal privacy statutes passed in 1974, 1974, 1978, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1994, and 1996.

Facebook Fiasco Is Exactly What US Internet Law Incents Protects & Produces

One gets what one rewards and tolerates.

U.S. Internet law and policy, which exempts and immunizes Internet platforms from most normal social responsibility and government accountability, has created a de facto anti-social contract with the American people; a cheaters charter for Internet platforms; and an increasingly corrosive culture of unaccountability.

Inputs drive outputs. Favoring unaccountability, favors irresponsibility.

This latest Facebook fiasco is just the latest in a long series of Internet-unaccountability wake-up calls for Congress.

The problem here is not tech, technology, the Internet, or a business model. They are mere tools that can be used for good or for bad.

The problem here is Congress predicated 1996 U.S. Internet law and policy on the implicit utopian ideal and naïve presumption that Internet technologies and businesses would only be forces for social good and not harm.

Congress Learns Sect 230 Is Linchpin of Internet Platform Unaccountability

U.S. Internet policy politics has shifted.

Congress has learned that any new legal accountability for, or regulation of, Internet platforms likely won’t survive court challenge, unless the new legislation also amends a 1996 law, Section 230, that selectively immunizes Internet platforms from most government legal accountability, and federal and state regulation.

Courts have interpreted Section 230 so broadly that Internet platforms like Facebook, Alphabet-Google, Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb, grew confident that they could operate their businesses largely above the rules and outside the law that applied to everyone else.

The proof of this "Jekyll and Hyde" legal double standard, is that this week Congress had to amend section 230 to narrowly override its sweeping Internet platform immunity powers to legally enable child victims of sex trafficking to seek redress for their harms in court.

Yesterday the Senate passed FOSTA, the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act,” with 97% support (97-2). Three weeks ago, the House passed it with 94% support, (388-25). Both passed over the strong opposition of Alphabet-Google and some other members of the Internet Association. President Trump is expected to quickly sign it into law.

US Internet Policy’s Anticompetitive Asymmetric Accountability - DOJ Filing

Note: this post summarizes a Precursor LLC presentation filing for the record of the U.S. DOJ Antitrust Division’s 3-14-18 Roundtable on Antitrust Exemptions & Immunities. See the presentation/filing here.

Presentation Title:

“A Market Divided: U.S. Internet Policy Creates Anticompetitive Asymmetric Accountability.”
Government exemptions and immunities overwhelmingly favor regulatory arbitrage over free market competition. Accountability arbitrage harms: consumer welfare; free market forces; the process of competition; and economic growth.

Executive Summary:

Unregulated Google Facebook Amazon Want Their Competitors Utility Regulated

Americans believe in equal accountability, that no one should be above rules or outside the law.

Then why are America’s only unaccountable network monopolies, Alphabet-Google, Facebook, and Amazon, calling for maximal accountability of utility-grade, network-neutrality regulation for their ISP competitors, but no accountability for their own apparent utility-like, monopoly distribution networks?

The Beginning of the End of America’s Bad “No Rules” Internet Policy

Americans strongly believe no one should be above the rules or outside the law.

This quintessential founding American value was importantly affirmed this week when the U.S. House of Representatives passed FOSTA, the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act,” with 94% support, (388-25) over the strong opposition of some members of the Internet Association. The Senate is expected to pass it in a few weeks, in a similarly overwhelming 90+% fashion. President Trump has indicated he would promptly sign it into law.

Simply, the new law would empower child victims of online sex trafficking to finally be able to sue in court to have websites that knowingly aided or abetted in their trafficking to be held civilly and criminally accountable for their crimes, if they are found guilty in a court of law under due process.

Think about it. What kind of law would require a new law to enable tens of thousands of child sex trafficking victims of unspeakable tortures to just have their rightful day in court to try and prove under due process that they have been illegally violated like any other American rightfully can in every other instance in court?

Something is profoundly wrong here.

Google’s Chrome Ad Blocker Shows Why the Ungoverned Shouldn’t Govern Others

Alphabet-Google is an unregulated monopoly that currently is de facto regulating the entire digital advertising ecosystem – in part via its new Chrome ad-blocker.

With minimal government accountability, it’s no surprise Google apparently is exercising its monopoly power anticompetitively and coercively.  

Only an out-of-control, U.S. Internet policy could create such an upside-down situation where Internet platforms like Google are so ungoverned by the U.S. Government, that they are free to broadly govern other companies in coercive ways that even the U.S. Government legally can’t do.  

Congress needs to pass legislation that restores a fair playing field with equal online-offline accountability to the law. Current U.S. Internet policy and law in the 1996 Telecom Act effectively exempts only Internet platforms from: FCC communications law; Federal and State regulation; liability for consumer negligence; and normal U.S. sovereign governance.

Internet platforms, like Alphabet-Google, act like they are above the rules and outside the law, because they largely are.

What to Expect from the Simons-FTC

Summary

More change is coming to the FTC than most appreciate.

That’s because the FTC is in the process of an unprecedented, clean-slate leadership change, at the same time society is undergoing an extraordinary inflection point – the “techlash.”  

In a nutshell, the evidence to date shows the eventual Simons-FTC is on path to be a tough, bipartisan, populist, by-the-book, enforcer of antitrust and consumer protection laws. That would be in stark contrast to, the “laxter” enforcement and apparent Google-capture, of the 2012-2017 Ramirez-FTC, and the current, sidelined, no-quorum, Ohlhausen-FTC. 

How U.S. Internet Policy Sabotages America’s National Security

A nation divided cannot stand.

America’s Internet policy is so badly divided that America’s national security struggles to stand firm.

The U.S. Government’s outdated, out of control, Internet policy dictates digital division and delivers digital disunion and disorder.

Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speech shared the timeless truth and wisdom that “a house divided against itself cannot stand” when he stood up for what was, and is, right – freedom and equality for all people, not just for the favored.  

Much more than most appreciate, U.S. Internet policy has de facto partitioned America legally into separate online and offline worlds. That may have made sense in the 1990’s when the Internet was nascent, but now when the Internet is pervasively everywhere we live, work, and play, it’s not only “disruptive,” but divisive and destructive too.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths