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  • As the coronavirus recession requires the Internet

  • to take on an even more central role in our

  • economy, its major stakeholders are changing the

  • landscape. The Justice Department set to put

  • forward a plan as soon as today to roll back

  • legal protections that online platforms have

  • enjoyed for more than two decades.

  • There's a lot of line here in terms of the soul of

  • the country. The president becomes increasingly

  • concerned that some of these platforms are

  • perhaps violating free speech and also bias

  • against conservatives. Twitter attempted to

  • control the narrative by starting to fact check

  • tweets on its platform, specifically those by

  • world leaders. President Trump responded with an

  • executive order re-examining the ability for

  • social media platforms to monitor speech.

  • What they choose to fact check and what they

  • choose to ignore or even promote is nothing more

  • than a political activism group or political

  • activism. And it's inappropriate.

  • But I think one of the most terrifying parts of it

  • involves a suggestion that the government should

  • be setting ground rules for what speech is or is

  • not allowed on a platform.

  • That video that can demonstrate the eight minutes

  • of torture that an African-American man had under

  • the police can be put on a medium like Facebook

  • or Twitter and have different interpretations.

  • But I don't think that Facebook or Internet

  • platforms in general should be arbiters of truth.

  • The battle over who regulates the platform and the

  • Internet overall started long before social media

  • was even an idea with the actual hardware of the

  • network. The dark side began to appear when money

  • became the driver. And while our digital avatars

  • become ever more important to our physical

  • livelihoods and our understanding of the world

  • around us, one question remains: who controls the

  • Internet? The Internet was originally

  • developed by computer scientists so they could

  • better share their research with each other.

  • The U.S. Department of Defense's Advanced

  • Research Projects Agency, or ARPA, financed the

  • project. It was an uncontrolled new environment.

  • Start at the end research.

  • The research was everything.

  • Arpanet, as it was called, was focused on sharing

  • packets of digital information.

  • I developed basically a mathematical theory of

  • packet to achieve network the networks we have

  • today called the Internet. ARPA said we need a

  • network. Here finally was the promise that we

  • could implement this technology that I had been

  • working on for so many years.

  • So sure enough, in less than nine months,

  • Berrinagon Nooman, the company that won the

  • contract delivered the first switch.

  • What, we now call a router to UCLA.

  • We connected it up to our computer.

  • And a month later, in October 1969, Stanford

  • Research Institute, 400 miles of the north, got

  • their router. And we deployed a high speed link

  • between the two and now had two node network.

  • Over time, more research facilities started

  • joining the network. And it started to grow.

  • The National Science Foundation, or NSF, also

  • opened up the networks users from just computer

  • scientists to any researcher or educational

  • institution that could reach it, free of charge.

  • NSF built the hardware that became the backbone

  • of the network. Personal computers were also

  • becoming more common, and the graphical interface

  • of the World Wide Web was being developed.

  • All of these items together grew into what is now

  • known as the Internet.

  • At the same time, private companies started

  • building their own networks.

  • In 1991, then Senator Al Gore sponsored a bill to

  • help fund what he calls the Information

  • Superhighway. That bill injected 600 million

  • dollars into the development of the Internet.

  • Al Gore put together an a wonderful constituency

  • of academia, industry and government to basically

  • deploy a very high speed gigabit per second

  • backbone network. So people like to snicker at

  • that. He made a major contribution in deploying

  • the backbone. This bill encouraged the Internet

  • to grow in both private and public sectors.

  • In 1995, NSF then awarded contracts for access

  • points for private companies to maintain the

  • backbone of the Internet and decommissioned its

  • own NSF net backbone in April of that year.

  • Over the next three years, NSF helped create the

  • framework the Internet has today officially

  • ending its direct role in the Internet in 1998.

  • That's an example where the government creates

  • really something innovative like it did with the

  • Internet and then handed over to the private

  • sector to take that and make it something that's

  • usable for the common person.

  • Many of these innovations have been able to evolve

  • due to the light touch regulatory framework that

  • we've had since the Clinton-Gore administration.

  • I thank the vice president who fought for this

  • bill for so long on behalf of the American

  • people. And I thank the members of Congress

  • in both parties, starting with the leadership who

  • believed in the promise and the possibility of

  • telecommunications reform.

  • So the '96 Communications Act update really

  • provided for more spectrum, because what

  • regulators found was that as these systems were

  • actually evolving, they needed more fuel.

  • It was a very much a consensus bill and

  • it really did pave the way for the Internet that

  • we see today. With so many new stakeholders in

  • the backbone of the Internet.

  • More voices started gaining traction.

  • This now became a world that the consumer could

  • enter and business could enter.

  • Now, once that happens, there's a major change in

  • the taste and the character of this network,

  • namely, it is now a money machine.

  • The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC,

  • regulates the infrastructure that supports the

  • Internet. How far that regulation extends, has

  • been a challenge for policymakers.

  • There's a belief that the FCC should step in and

  • dictate the extent to which this subdominant of

  • company when it comes to their content.

  • And again, whether or not they preference that

  • content, by putting it over others or they

  • discriminate against other content by not letting

  • you see it or the throttle it, slow it down.You

  • know, all of that comes under the net neutrality

  • provision, which the FCC kicked out.

  • Many question if the Internet should be considered

  • a public utility or remain a service provided by

  • private companies.

  • The coronavirus pandemic heighten the debate

  • after companies like Facebook, YouTube, Netflix

  • and others responded to a request from the

  • European Union to stream their content in a lower

  • quality in Europe.

  • However, the network in the U.S.

  • was able to withstand the increase in data usage

  • without having to throttle.

  • And I'm very proud that it didn't collapse.

  • That it was right there.

  • It hardly basically shuddered when this demand

  • came in. Paid prioritization would allow

  • companies to sell what they call a fast lane.

  • Can the Federal Communications Commission, the

  • FCC, dictate where the businesses

  • must lay cable?

  • The underlying speeds that they may maintain and

  • whether they can do a paid prioritization?

  • What I personally don't want is to allow a

  • provider to decide who gets bandwidth, who gets

  • how much bandwidth and if and when that benefit

  • gets turned off. At the end of the last

  • administration, the Federal Communications

  • Commission declared that there can be no paid

  • prioritization. Then in 2016, the U.S.

  • Congress enacted a bill to override that

  • decision by the Federal Communications

  • Commission, which handed back to the broadband

  • deployers the option to do paid prioritization.

  • So that's kind of where it stands now.

  • While the courts are still deciding who regulates

  • access to the Internet.

  • The conversations taking place online are growing

  • increasingly tense.

  • Today, I'm signing executive order to protect and

  • uphold the free speech and rights of the American

  • people. Currently, social media giants like

  • Twitter receive an unprecedented liability shield

  • based on the theory that they're a neutral

  • platform, which they are not.

  • Not an editor with a viewpoint.

  • My executive order calls for new regulations.

  • Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency

  • Act to make it that social media companies that

  • engage in censoring or any political content will

  • not be able to keep their liability shield.

  • That's a big deal. Days after President Trump

  • signed this executive order, it was challenged in

  • the courts. On the false assumption that's being

  • made is you either are a neutral platform or you

  • moderate content. And that's a false choice.

  • And that's not what the law requires.

  • The law says you can be whatever type of platform

  • you want. And when you remove content that you

  • consider to be objectionable, you're not going to

  • assume liability for that.

  • I think for the most part, tech companies don't

  • want their content to lead to unlawful activity,

  • but they actually have a huge challenge when it

  • comes to the recent activities of the president's

  • tweet that in some way could have been perceived

  • as inciting violence.

  • Twitter obviously came through and said, hey,

  • we're just going to mark this as a potential for

  • that. Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg basically said

  • Facebook is staying out of it because they're not

  • the arbiter of anybody's troop.

  • When it came to the president's executive order,

  • it's there's a lot of different components in it

  • that are worth unpacking.

  • But I think one of the most terrifying parts of

  • it involves a suggestion that the government

  • should be setting ground rules for what speech is

  • or is not allowed on a platform.

  • That suggestion was first explored in the 1996

  • Communications Decency Act aimed at curtailing

  • the presence of pornography and illicit activity

  • on the Internet. The entire Communications

  • Decency Act was found to violate the First

  • Amendment, except for Section 230.

  • Those two important provisions.

  • One, it makes clear what is called conduit

  • immunity, which basically says if you are just

  • the intermediary, you are not responsible for the

  • content that is transmitted.

  • Good example that would be in a library.

  • But the more important provision is the second

  • section which made clear that platforms

  • could moderate content that could remove lewd,

  • lascivious or otherwise objectionable content

  • without assuming liability or either the removal

  • of that content or the failure to catch any

  • content that they didn't remove.

  • Section 230 empowers somebody who's setting up a

  • social media Web site for cat lovers to remove

  • any dog related content.

  • In effect, President Trump's executive order would

  • change how social media platforms are treated

  • under the law and consider them publishers, which

  • could make them liable for all content written on

  • their sites. Just like media organizations like

  • CNBC. The DOJ has been working on this for about

  • a year. But it does dovetail with the president's

  • recent executive order, which require the FCC or

  • would at least ask the FCC to promulgate new

  • regulations in this space as well.

  • It wants Congress to rewrite Section 230 of the

  • Communications Decency Act to remove the

  • liability shield for civil action if platforms

  • are found to facilitate or solicit federal

  • criminal activity, such as fraud or scams.

  • All of these changes could upend the business

  • model for tech's biggest companies.

  • Industry groups are against it.

  • And the big caveat here is that the DOJ cannot do

  • this alone. It would need Congress to act.

  • We have don't have a regulatory