Playing With Fire

How to Break the Internet

That Was The Week, #43

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Editorial: My Take

The Internet is a fantastic thing. All we have to do is remember how things were before to grasp how awesome it is. Finding a book, shopping, buying a ticket, sending a message, and many other things were challenging and time-consuming. I remember waiting for my wife at a London tube station on an early date. She was almost an hour late. No text, no email, no mobile phone. I just had to wait and hope. She did come 🙂

In 1995, as a founder and CTO at EasyNet – the first consumer ISP in Europe – I remember the police visiting and asking if we could monitor what was published on the newsgroups and who by. We refused to do so. The point of view was that the Internet was like the real world and that snooping was wrong. The right to free speech should be assumed and law breaking, as in the real world, should be punished by the law. Surveillance by Internet companies should not be part of it, especially secret surveillance.

Later that year and the next, the USA passed section 230 of the Communications Act. It explicitly excused internet companies from being responsible for what their users published via their services. Even if an internet company chose to delete or modify something, it did not, by doing so, become responsible for all content.

Since 1996 Section 230 has enabled internet services to offer consumer platforms and open up publishing to everybody. The services all have terms and conditions, and they try to enforce them. But they are not subject to the law for everything you or I publish.

This week I highlight contributions from a wide range of points of view. Some call for the modification of Section 230. Others want it to remain untouched. Some want it ended altogether.

My take is to leave it untouched. Allow the platforms to implement their policies. A publisher, even an individual, should be responsible for what they publish, not the platform they choose to publish on.

If that small win is modified, the Internet will become surveillance central, and Internet norms will be seriously violated.

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This week’s video is here:

–News Of The Week 1: Regulation and the Internet

–News Of The Week 2: IPOs, SPACS etc

–The Best of the Rest

Startup Of The Week:

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