Net Neutrality Fight Continues

November 15, 2017

Net Neutrality is a topic that is being discussed more and more and the debate stemming from this topic is heated. This article will discuss what Net Neutrality is and its effects on the free flow of information.

In Redefining Net Neutrality After Comcast V. FCC, a Berkley Technology Law Journal Article by Alexander Reicher, net neutrality is simply defined as standing for the principle that “all like internet content must be treated alike and move at the same speed over the network.” This article goes on to discuss three different understandings of the term “net neutrality”.

The first understanding of the term net neutrality is described as the theoretical net neutrality principles that should be protected – namely, free speech, innovation, and competition on the internet.

The second understanding of the term net neutrality encompasses “the set of legal rules and policies that the FCC enforces, first adopted in the ‘Internet Policy Statement’ and, more recently in the ‘Open Internet Rules.’”  The Open Internet Rules is an FCC policy that can be found here.

The third understanding of the term net neutrality refers to “the network protocols and internet architecture that can direct, on the technical level, how [internet service providers] ISPs discriminate among content, services, or applications.

There are still very few cases that discuss “net neutrality”, however there are far more administrative decisions from the F.C.C. and S.E.C. that have discussed as a principle and as an issue affecting our rights.  Early in November there were speeches on “net neutrality” such as: REMARKS OF COMMISSIONER JESSICA ROSENWORCEL “INTERNET FREEDOM NOW: THE FUTURE OF CIVIL RIGHTS DEPENDS ON NET NEUTRALITY” WASHINGTON, DC, 2017 WL 5067518 (F.C.C.).; and,  REMARKS OF FCC COMMISSIONER MIGNON L. CLYBURN (AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY) INTERNET FREEDOM NOW: THE FUTURE OF CIVIL RIGHTS DEPENDS ON NET NEUTRALITY THE VOICES FOR INTERNET FREEDOM COALITION WASHINGTON, D.C., 2017 WL 5067517 (F.C.C.).

These speeches called immediate attention to the debates that are occurring daily across the United States and the world.

In a Capitol Hill Publishing Corp, News Article, Franken calls for net neutrality for Google, Twitter and Facebook, Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) is quoted saying that big tech firms should be held to the same style of net neutrality rules as major telecommunications companies, calling attention to Twitter, Facebook, and Google, saying, “Not only do they guide what we see, read and buy on a regular basis, but their dominance specifically in the market of information now requires that we consider their role in the integrity of our democracy.”

Franken expresses fear about the power and influence these companies have, saying “No one company should have the power to pick and choose which content reaches consumers and which doesn’t … And Facebook, Google and Amazon, like ISPs, should be neutral in their treatment of the flow of lawful information and commerce on their platform.”

These comments are directed at the alleged Russian influence in the past election, to which Franken says the tech giants “failed to take common-sense precautions to prevent the spread of propaganda, misinformation and hate speech.”

However, the question is then raised as to whether tech giants should allow publication of information without fact-checking. Is there a first amendment right associated with the free flow of any and all information on the internet? Is the onus on the tech giants to fact-check information or is it on individual users who are viewing this information?

It will be interesting to watch the net neutrality conversations develop and to consider both our constitutional rights and the legal implications that result.

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