The Internet Governance Forum by Sachin Meier, Impact Investing Intern, Georgetown University.

Last Thursday, the Internet Governance Forum was held at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Sponsors included Facebook, Amazon, Comcast, the Charles Koch Institute, and ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). The conference covered many topics – from blockchain, AI, and 5G to monopoly power and antitrust, privacy, and consumer protection.

Commissioner Christine Wilson of the Federal Trade Commission discussed the myriad problems surrounding Facebook and its "reckless" behavior with respect to user privacy, data collection and targeting. She took a strong stance on the need to directly regulate Facebook and “put a speed bump in front of Mr. Zuckerberg”. She was keen on controlling Zuckerberg’s power within his own company by dictating the composition of Facebook's Board of Directors and regulating other executive powers Zuckerberg holds within the company. She also suggested a more general, industry-wide reform of social media company consumer protection regulations.

Another panel discussed issues rising from new technologies, like Deepfakes and corporate surveillance, which have adversely affected consumers and about which the current laws provide little guidance. Very few of the most important questions were answered, in part because no one currently has the answers. One of the panelists left with the hope that either newer technology, social norms, or governmental regulation will control the malicious use of technology and allow us to find a stable equilibrium for society.

After a break, a panel of lawyers and regulators convened to discuss antitrust regulation and the future of Big Tech. This panel was generally in favor of using antitrust legislation as leverage in order to coerce compliance with rules and to encourage companies not to push their luck with extralegal actions. They discussed targeting Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple. The panel noted that, as network effects and economies of scale are the driving force behind these monopolies, breaking them up would not solve the problem, merely destroy a relatively efficient market.

Another issue concerned “the right to be forgotten”. This concept has been seized upon in Europe but remains unacceptable in America. A few panelists pitched the idea.

Despite the pressing nature of many of these issues, and the proclaimed necessity of legislation to fix the problems, many of the speakers and panelists agreed that other, better-publicized issues would continue to have Congressional attention. It is up to the private sector, state and local governments, and society to find solutions to the risks increasingly powerful technology presents.

(Edited by William Michael Cunningham).

Popular posts from this blog

China Creates a Digital Currency. Joseph LaRosa, Impact Investing Intern, The Ohio State University.

An Impact Analysis of Goldman's "One Million Black Women" Initiative