Think Net Neutrality is only about the way Internet providers control the flow of information? What if I told you it went further—or not as far, depending on how you look at the issue? Welcome to the world of Content Regulation—or under Trump Administration Lackey Ajit Pai, Net Neutrality Content Regulation.
Even before I wrote the piece you see linked above calling Mr. Pai a Trump Administration Lackey, Ajit Pai had overstepped his reach. Put aside whatever you think about Net Neutrality and its effect on the way information moves on the Internet. Accept that the government should regulate Internet Service Providers—or if you prefer, don’t. I’ve been thinking about Ajit Pai’s grab at not just ISPs, but Content Creators and facilitators, and it’s disturbing.
Last week, it got more so. Net Neutrality Content Regulation is becoming a complex idea, and Ajit Pai needs to keep his hands off it.
Discussions on the definition of journalism or who qualifies as a journalist aside, this has been brewing for awhile. Facebook’s controversy with Cambridge Analytica is bringing it back in a big way; is Facebook a media outlet?
Obviously (ha! I called this obvious!) Facebook is a media outlet—among other things. What’s troubling is that Facebook’s self-evaluation changes every time they want to tell a different story. That’s a strong argument for regulation defining the issue, and of course that regulation would come from the government.
But not from Ajit Pai’s FCC. Not unless Facebook also fits the definition of “broadcaster”.
It might seem easy to call them that; after all, no-one has a broader reach than Facebook. But Facebook doesn’t own the broadcasting spectrum that TV and radio stations do. It also isn’t a telecommunications provider with that swath of bandwidth under its control.
Net Neutrality Content Regulation
The definition of “journalistic outlet” is a bit trickier. But journalism—regardless of who practices it—isn’t a Net Neutrality Content Regulation issue. Expression of ideas isn’t what the FCC is authorized to regulate, and in The United States is constitutionally protected.
What Facebook is responsible for is a tricky issue. They are absolutely guilty of not protecting data well enough and likely of abusing your data themselves. And I have a hard time seeing Facebook as not a source of journalism. But a broadcaster, Facebook is not. And if you see a weasel like Ajit Pai so much as looking in Facebook’s direction you need to be concerned. On the other hand, news is breaking that the FTC is investigating Facebook’s practices … and that’s a whole different discussion.