WhatsApp has over a billion users worldwide, and the Facebook-owned encrypted messaging app is particularly popular in Brazil, where it’s used by 93% of Internet users. Earlier this month, a Brazilian court shut down the app across the country after the company failed to comply with a court order demanding data related to a drug trafficking investigation. Evan is joined by Javier Pallero, policy analyst in Latin America for Access Now, and his American counterpart, Amie Stepanovich. They discuss WhatsApp’s woes in Brazil and what the shutdowns mean for the broader global debate over encryption.
News broke yesterday that Google will soon face a 3 billion euro fine from the European Commission after 6 years of antitrust investigations from EU regulators. In the past, the EC has accused Google of unfairly promoting its own services in search results at the expense of its competitors. Now, regulators are complaining that Google requires smartphone manufacturers to make Google search the default and pre-install Google apps on phones running its Android operating system. Evan and Berin discuss the merits and implications of the case. Is Google really abusing its dominance in the search and smartphone markets?
The European Union (EU) is an interesting case for tech policy. While individual member states get direction from Brussels, where the EU is headquartered, they also create policies within their own borders. Should technology regulations be harmonized across the EU to create a “Digital Single Market?” Or should EU nations compete over crafting the best policies and attracting the most startups and investment? What can the US learn from this dynamic? Evan is joined by Dominique Lazanski, Public Policy Director at GSMA, an international trade association representing mobile operators. They discuss the latest tech headlines from the EU, their connection to the United States, and what it all means for Internet governance.
The Internet is getting smarter. And as the way we use the Internet is changing, the way we manage its traffic must change too. Evan and AEI Economics Research Associate Evelyn Smith discuss software-defined networking (SDN), it's benefits, and policy implications. How does SDN compare to road traffic? Does net neutrality make broadband “dumb?” For more, see Evelyn's post in Tech Policy Corner.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai joins the show to discuss his dissenting vote in the FCC’s approval of the Charter-Time Warner merger. Late last month, the FCC and Department of Justice (DoJ) approved the merger of the sixth and third biggest broadband providers in America. And even though the DoJ determined that the merger will benefit consumers without harming competition, the FCC extorted a series of onerous conditions from the two companies in its review process. For that reason, Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai dissented. Pai discusses his dissent with Evan and Berin. Do the harms of the merger conditions outweigh the benefits? What does this say about the FCC’s process? Is merger review an appropriate avenue for policymaking?
Uber and Lyft have ceased operations in Austin, TX following a failed vote on a referendum to overturn regulations adopted in December by the city council. The regulations restricted where passengers could be picked up and dropped off, required ride-sharing cars to be clearly labeled with company logos, and mandated data reporting and fingerprint background checks. What does this mean for the future of ride-sharing in Austin? Will other cities follow suit? Jared Meyer, a research fellow at the Manhattan Institute, discuss. For more, see Jared’s op-ed in Forbes.
Should innovation require permission? Should entrepreneurs have to get government approval before experimenting with new products and business models? As technology has rapidly evolved over the last several decades, regulators have taken different approaches to creating and adapting rules to keep up. In his book Permissionless Innovation, Adam Thierer, senior research fellow with the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center, examines the conflict between the two main visions for regulating emerging technologies: permissionless innovation and prior restraint. He and Evan discuss the two visions, real world examples of their impact, and what government can do to protect consumers while providing certainty and freedom to innovators. You can get Adam’s book on Amazon.
Is Facebook biased against conservatives? Gizmodo ran a story today based on interviews with former contractors for Facebook, who “curated” the otherwise-machine-generated “Trending Topics” next to the Newsfeed (the real heart of the Facebook experience). They allege that other “curators” implemented their own political bias in writing blurbs about trending stories, excluding conservative themes and publications, and injecting left-of-center stories. Gizmodo acknowledges that no one alleges Facebook management actually directed such bias, but buries this point, which most outraged conservatives have missed. So what’s going on? Is Facebook really out to get the Right? Or is this just independent contractors failing to uphold company policy on a tangential feature of the site? Should Facebook simply do more to enforce its own stated policies of official neutrality? Evan and Berin (of course) discuss.
Taxi monopolies have clashed with ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft across the country. But what happens when the clash is between two taxi companies? Ken Leininger, founder of Ken’s Cab, found out the hard way. When he tried to operate his small cab company in Little Rock, AR, he found out that local law protected the city’s taxi monopoly from competition. He and the Institute for Justice (IJ) are suing the city. Evan is joined by Allison Daniel, an attorney for IJ. They discuss the case and its broader implications for competition and consumers. Are mom-and-pop taxi companies the unsung victims of outdated regulation? Is this a new front in the battles over the sharing economy? For more, check out IJ’s case site.
Has the War on Drugs become a war on phones? The Apple v. FBI saga made encryption a household issue, but while that case focused on counter-terrorism, the vast majority of law enforcement confrontations with the tech sector deal with drug investigations. Is the “going dark” problem really an issue of national security? Or is law enforcement just trying to solve more drug crimes by getting into locked phones? Evan and Eli Dourado, director of the Mercatus Center’s Technology Policy Program, discuss how the War on Drugs fuels efforts to undermine encryption and cybersecurity. For more, see Eli’s post in Plain Text.