September 26, 2017

AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME? How to Regulate Facebook Like a Broadcaster.

Sure, television regulation was written to curb the big broadcasters’ monopoly on airwaves but, today, Facebook enjoys an even more powerful monopoly (even if the monopoly is not built on physical scarcity).

This leaves the question of whether the government is tech-savvy or competent enough to regulate Facebook in the first place. It’s a fair concern. The current TV laws—many of which were written in the era of antennas—would serve as clumsy tools to oversee an Internet company like Facebook, and could cause bureaucrats to run amok.

The good news is Congress and regulators have pulled off something like this before. In 1998, lawmakers wrote two landmark laws to address copyright and free speech concerns on the Internet, while helping to ensure web-based companies didn’t get smothered with lawsuits about user behavior. The laws are widely regarded as a success.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is quoted as one of those “successful” laws. If the DMCA is the measure of internet regulatory success, then perhaps more thought — much more thought — is needed before Congress takes any action.

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