Feds Just Itching To Regulate The Internet

from the careful-what-you-wish-for... dept

It looks like the folks in DC are looking for all sorts of ways to further regulate companies in Silicon Valley. Senator Chuck Schumer is pushing for the FTC to regulate how Facebook handles privacy issues, which has some legal experts scratching their heads noting that the FTC doesn’t have the authority to do so:

I have to say, in the words of my boyhood hero John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious.” Schumer is asking the FTC to do his job for him. Surely Schumer — who has been in Congress since 1991 and in the Senate since 1999 — knows that the FTC’s authority to regulate online privacy is on very shaky and politically charged ground. At a minimum, he knows that Congress has failed to act, despite calls for federal online privacy legislation for over a decade.

Except… well… that may be changing. A few folks have sent over noting that “a little-known provision” in the currently debated financial overhaul bill would suddenly grant the FTC more power to regulate the internet. This comes just a few months after someone in the Commerce Department suggested that it was time for the current administration to “rescind” its “leave the internet alone” regulatory stance — specifically including taking an active role when it comes to internet privacy (along with cybersecurity and copyright…).

If this is indeed happening, then it certainly shouldn’t be a part of the financial regulatory reform bill, but should stand to be debated alone, so that there’s an actual discussion of what’s happening and why, and people can weigh in. As a part of a larger bill, there will likely be little if any public debate on a potentially massive policy change. Right now, what’s being said is a bit scary. The article quotes FTC chair Jon Leibowitz saying:

“If we had a deterrent, a bigger stick to fine malefactors, that would be helpful.”

But there are pretty big questions about who should be considered malefactors and who should be allowed to fine them and for what. In the past, Leibowitz has sounded reasonable, but he’s also been a bit quick to ask for additional regulatory powers in the past as well. And, for those of you worried about the question of getting power to regulate the internet over copyright, it is worth mentioning that Liebowitz worked at the MPAA for four years.

No matter what, this would be a pretty massive change in policy, and as such, it deserves a full and open debate — something that seems increasingly rare when it comes to regulating the internet these days.

Filed Under: , , , , ,
Companies: facebook, ftc

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Feds Just Itching To Regulate The Internet”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Overcast (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The Establishment HATES the Internet because the free flow of information threatens their legitimacy, which is a house of cards built on loose sand built on a pack of lies.

Indeed, it’s like a Castle of Free Speech – or could be.

The more they want to ‘regulate’ it, the more they are looking to squash free speech.

But in reality – isn’t that what most of this crap from the government has been lately?

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Nah, not about respect. It’s just that a great deal of folks who write about them, one way or the other, will often refer to their members using only that one word followed by their induction year. For instance:

W. Averell Harriman (The Order, 1913)
H.P. Whitney (The Order, 1863)
Harlod Stanley (The Order, 1908)
McGeorge Bundy (The Order, 1940)
George H.W. Bush (The Order, 1949)
William F. Buckely (The Order, 1950)

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: ....

“Can you imagine the scale of the whack-a-mole game that errupts after this happens”

Funny that … action leads to reaction. Its a constant in the universe and in human nature. What those wishing to implement a 1984 type system fail to comprehend is that people dont like when their lives are intruded upon. Constantly adding one more simple violation or perversion of the rules to a system, always, and with out fail, leads to the catastrophic failure of the system being manipulated. The internet is not one of these systems that can be manipulated. Every rule put in place has a work around. Ban a site in australia, use a proxy server in another nation. Someone listening in on your connection, use encryption. P2P now illegal, use a weblocker.

This game of whack-a-mole will, in the end, make the internet more secure for the end user and less secure for governments.

ElijahBlue (profile) says:

I was a diehard Yahoo! fan, all the way back to the dark ages of 1994, first for their search engine, and later, for the free email. In the old days, Yahoo actually coughed up useful results.

Later, the results got so spammy and crap-filled, I wouldn’t dare click on any link in a Yahoo! targeted search. The ads also became heavy with sound, video, animation and flash, which bogged down my high-speed internet connection. Everyone else I knew was still using dial-up internet, and they dumped Yahoo as soon as Google became better known.

At one point, Yahoo was truly my internet link for everything. My first online auctions were through Yahoo – Ebay was around in those days but Yahoo did it better. They also had a free online photo storage service, which wasn’t all that impressive in the days when digital cameras still cost thousands of dollars. I was buying books and other stuff via Yahoo shopping years before I bothered to check out Amazon. The ads on Yahoo became spammier, and the links in internet searches turned into useless junk. Amazon started their own online auction service (they don’t have this service today), which was better than Yahoo’s, and of course, Amazon became the king of online shopping, the first place I went for books and music.

And then I met Google. The first smart thing Google did – which seemed almost counterintuitive at the time – was stepping away from those flashing, video and sound-based target ads. The text-based click ads seemed so quaint, but when Google started, most people didn’t have high-speed internet connections, and this was a brilliant move backwards that actually worked. Yahoo started charging for things Google was offering for free, including POP access (where you can read your email via Outlook or on a mobile device). On my very first smart phone I was able to easily d/l my Google email, back in 2002.

The branding of the G1 was another brilliant move on Google’s part. If Yahoo had been on the forefront of this kind of package deal, maybe they might still be king of the internet world.

Today the only thing I use Yahoo for is to check my two email accounts I’ve had since 1994 – just to delete the spam. I do this once a month, just for old times sake.

Jason Gilbert (profile) says:


Its an obviously selfish game that the politicians are playing. I think that politicians will cry about the children when calling to regulate something like DirtyPhoneBook but really they’re just interested in protecting their own reputation. Meanwhile, they clearly want to control the internet because all dictatorships always tried to control all possible avenues of dissent.

And I don’t think this is a democrat or republican issue as both of them are in cahoots and just care about temporary power advantage.

kb says:

re: Feds Just Itching To Regulate The Internet

While I would normally think that Schumer’s whole Facebook campaign was a load of bull seeing as he’s a liberal, I’m shocked to find myself in agreement with him. Privacy is one of those issues where we should be erring on the side of caution. It is not an issue that the marketplace can work out for itself.

bostonantichrist says:

if you think this is bad..

if you think this is bad then take a look at this
hmm libowitz and liberman ,2 jews trying to take control of ,or give control of, to the government,the largest mega media medium on the planet
yea figures this guy was mpaa
lets not forget bout the bill purposed by these 2 douce bags
orin hatch and christopher dodd,COICA,(google it if dont know)
this plus the super dmca laws and the new eff laws being purposed,plus i live in mass and they are already going to force out of stste online retailers to collect taxes on all products sent to mass,not sure if its just for the slaes tax holiday of permenant but the fact that this involves the ftc makes me even more suspicious

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...