Tech Policy Update, June 2020
ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY WALK INTO AN EXECUTIVE ORDER — Writing for Lawfare, Jeff Westling and Charles Duan explain how President Trump’s recent executive order on social media “did its damage before he even put pen to paper.” By leveraging multiple arms of the federal government in retaliation for Twitter’s flagging of Trump’s tweets, they explain that the president sent a powerful message to the whole online economy—disfavor the administration and pay the consequences in legal fees and investigations. Westling and Duan find that message “particularly jarring” coming from a Republican administration that ought to stand for deregulation, free markets and the First Amendment.
MILLIONS OF LAWSUITS, LAWSUITS FOR FREE — On the R Street Blog, Daisy Soderberg-Rivkin responds to Senator Hawley’s recent Section 230 legislation. She writes that the bill “puts platforms on the receiving end of unending lawsuits for their moderation decisions, thereby disincentivizing any moderation at all.” Rather than the “heavy handed regulatory approach this bill proposes,” Soderberg-Rivkin would prefer that lawmakers “instead rely on the free market.”
While Trump and other lawmakers refuse to moderate their attacks on content moderation policy under Section 230, R Street scholars have actively commented on the issue, appearing in the New York Times, Bloomberg, the Independent, the Daily Kos, Jeff Angelo on the Radio and the Spokesman-Review.
SPEAKING OF FREE SPEECH — R Street hosted an event featuring R Street’s Mike Godwin, John Sands of the Knight Foundation, Emma Llansó of the Center for Democracy and Technology, Karen Kornbluh of the German Marshall Fund and Priscilla Standridge with Gallup. The panelists discussed a new poll on how Americans view the open internet and considered approaches to free expression online. You can view a video of the event here.
HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE MONOPOLIES — In an article recently published in the Santa Clara High Tech Law Journal, Charles Duan explains how patents can unexpectedly interfere with national security. The intersection of patents and national security has received much attention, with the Department of Justice arguing that antitrust remedies leveraged against patent holders may disadvantage the United States against technology competitors like China. Challenging this rhetoric with historical examples (including a connection to a certain Rodgers & Hammerstein musical) and economic analysis, Duan contends that strong enforcement of patents can actually weaken competition-driven security measures such as cybersecurity.
MANY BANDANAS WERE WORN — On the Urbane Cowboys podcast, Caleb Watney chats with Josiah Neeley and the Lone Star Policy Institute’s Doug McCullough about facemasks and other personal protective equipment as the COVID-19 pandemic marches on. Watney is the author of a recent paper on government purchases of face masks and other equipment, which was published by the Mercatus Center and previously endorsed in Bloomberg and Vox.
WE HAVE TO GO RIGHT TO…LUDICROUS SPEED! — Jeff Westling comments on the FCC’s 5G upgrade order in an R Street Blog post. The order, he says, “is critical to ensuring that carriers can upgrade their existing infrastructure to support 5G services,” as it would limit regulatory barriers imposed by local governments that could interfere with the deployment of next-generation broadband.
WE O’REALLY LIKE HIM — Tom Struble and the R Street Institute joined a letter supporting the renomination of Federal Communications Commissioner Mike O’Rielly. The letter points out that by having “stayed true to a Constitutionalist regulatory philosophy focused on the rule of law and economic freedom,” O’Rielly “has built an impressive record of achievements” during his FCC tenure so far in a wide range of telecommunications policy areas including wireless spectrum, infrastructure buildout, media regulation modernization, internet freedom and more.