Ever since his (putative) deal to buy Twitter was announced, Elon Musk has hijacked the debates around content moderation, the design of social media, and online speech. His comments on these subjects are a mish-mash of (sometimes contradictory) slogans. Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Berin Szóka, founder and president of TechFreedom, join the show for a more informed exploration of these topics. Along with host Corbin Barthold, they discuss the nuances of social media transparency, the value of user anonymity, the promise of decentralized protocols, and more. Mentioned on this episode: the Santa Clara Principles; articles on the Musk/Twitter deal by Jillian, Berin, and Corbin; and EFF’s new Tracking Global Censorship project.
Evolving technology—not to mention evolving norms in Silicon Valley—has sparked fierce debate about online speech. Are social media platforms too powerful? Do their content moderation policies strike a good balance between free speech and healthy conversation? Should the government get involved in policing disinformation? In this episode, we home in on how the American Right views these issues. Nate Hochman, an ISI fellow at National Review, and Rachel Altman, TechFreedom’s director of digital media, join the show to discuss the federal government’s new “Disinformation Governance Board,” Elon Musk’s planned acquisition of Twitter, and what conservative political philosophy might tell us about how to approach content moderation. For more, see Nate’s recent piece at National Review: “Elon Musk’s Town Square.”
In 2017 or so, people started to assert that the FAANG companies—Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google—were unstoppable juggernauts. Lately that claim has taken some hard hits, as Facebook (now Meta) and Netflix, facing stiff competition, have seen their stock prices tumble. Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, joins the show to discuss how the Schumpeterian “gale of creative destruction” unseats dominant market players, why government antitrust cases so often look foolish in hindsight, and why we should celebrate innovation (spoiler: it leads to progress and human betterment). Adam also discusses his book Evasive Entrepreneurs and the Future of Governance: How Innovation Improves Economies and Governments.
Corbin’s piece on monkeys and double pendulums—mentioned around 20:30—is “Can Experts Structure Markets? Don’t Count on It.”
Though its goal—to help bridge the digital divide—is laudible, the Universal Service Fund is a badly structured, badly run, wasteful, much abused, unsustainable program. Jim Dunstan, general counsel at TechFreedom, joins the show to discuss the many problems with the USF, and some of the proposals to fix it. For more, see Jim’s piece for the Regulatory Transparency Project, “The Arrival of the Federal Computer Commission?”; Corbin’s piece at Law & Liberty, “No Legislation Without Representation”; TechFreedom’s recent comments to the FCC on the future of the USF; and TechFreedom’s recent amicus brief on the unconstitutionality of the private entity that oversees the USF, the Universal Service Administrative Company.
Are we doomed to collapse, like Ancient Rome? Or will we continue to make scientific discoveries, build technological innovations, and increase our wealth and well-being indefinitely? Alec Stapp is the co-founder of a new think tank, The Institute for Progress. He joins the show to discuss what drives progress, what political and cultural forces obstruct it, and how he hopes to accelerate it through his new organization.
In response to Russia’s invasion, Ukraine has lobbied the international community to impair Russia’s Internet infrastructure. The Russian state itself, meanwhile, has restricted its own citizens’ access to social media and other websites. Shane Tews, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, joins the show to discuss how the Internet works, whether the West can—or should—restrict the Internet in Russia, and whether looming technological advances will help keep the Internet open and resilient. For more, see Shane’s recent article, “Is shutting down the Russian internet an act of tyranny or democracy?”
Can the government require social media services to disclose data, or provide notifications, related to their content moderation practices? Many politicians seem to think so: they’re enacting such “transparency” rules as a second-best way to try to control how websites moderate content. In a forthcoming law review article, “The Constitutionality of Mandating Editorial Transparency,” Eric Goldman, a professor and associate dean at Santa Clara Law, explains why mandated “transparency” for online speech violates the First Amendment. Prof. Goldman joins the show to discusse his paper, analyze “transparency” mandates recently passed by Florida and Texas, and explain why this is such a crucial moment for free speech on the Internet.
The Internet can be a powerful tool for decentralization and resistance. Lately, however, authorities from across the political spectrum have been trying to use it to enforce conformity and exert control. Ari Cohn, TechFreedom’s Free Speech Counsel, and Rachel Altman, its Director of Digital Media, join the show to discuss government efforts to stamp out the Canadian trucker protest, to limit end-to-end encryption, and to dictate how private companies engage in content moderation; and to assess what those efforts mean for the future of Internet freedom.
Activists like to shower the American broadband industry with criticism. In a new paper, Anticorporate Broadband Populists’ Real Agenda: Destroy the Current Private-Sector System, Robert Atkinson, founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, highlights the activists’ ultimate goal: to turn broadband into a government-run utility. Rob joins TechFreedom’s Corbin Barthold and James Dunstan to discuss the holes in the activists’ arguments, the problems with municipal broadband, and the (pretty darn good) state of the broadband industry.
Web3 could lead to greater decentralization, authentication, and immutability on the Internet. But what does that mean? It’s about much more than just crypto and NFTs. Joining the show to break things down are Hillary Brill, a senior fellow at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law and Policy, and Gabrielle Hibbert, co-founder of Bloom, a Web3 development education program for women and genderqueer individuals. They discuss whether Web3 is in fact the “next big thing” for the Internet, explain the technology that makes it possible, and dispel some of the misconceptions about it. Hillary and Gabrielle are both members of the Decentralized Future Council, an initiative that aims to help policymakers understand decentralized technologies.