It is obvious that the government is out of touch with current technology. Governments are frantically passing net neutrality bills and overly strict cookie regulations while seizing domains without warrants and attempting to censor search engine results. The government is going about things all wrong. If we’ve learned anything from the RIAA’s struggle against music piracy, it is that companies and governments need to work with current trends rather than fighting against them. This seems obvious to everyone except the government officials proposing these bills.
But, on the other hand, what happens when internet companies become more powerful than the government? In an interview with The Guardian, Eric Schmidt says that if the United States passes a law that would require search engines to remove select search results, they would refuse.
There are two things to this story that should shock you (and I’m not usually one for scare tactics). The first would be the US Government proposing a bill enforcing straight up censorship. The second terrifying aspect is that Google can simply refuse to cooperate with any bill deemed unfair without any real ramifications. When you really think about it, what can our government do do a company like Google?
So, what would happen if Google turned evil? Let’s not forget the big scare where everyone was reporting that Google was teaming up with Verizon to censor your internet. While this wasn’t actually the case, Google, like any company, does have the potential for evil and we must not forget it.
We desperately need a regulation board to help monitor the internet giants while still promoting openness and internet freedom. Unfortunately, this appears to be impossible at this time for a number of reasons:
- Government officials lack the overall knowledge of current and future technological trends and therefore cannot propose and implement properly informed regulations.
- Technological innovation occurs at such a fast pace that it is next to impossible to follow current and future trends without being an active member of a company that is currently shaping the digital frontier and having a distinct bias.
- The idea of a regulatory board seems counterproductive to many people currently impacting the industry. One should not stop innovating to be a part of an organization that slows innovation.
Many would argue that a regulatory board is unnecessary and that the internet is great due to its absolute freedom. This is an extremely over-idealized viewpoint. What if Apple really did decide to track your every movement and sell that information? What if Google started providing your employer with your personal browsing history? Just think about the potential privacy violations the future holds.
The Internet created a whole new world, quite literally. One can build, destroy, interact, and create. At this moment in time, it is (almost) a lawless domain. We’ve already seen the Lord of the Flies effect (a la 4chan.org) as well as the rise and fall of giant civilizations (geocities, digg, et al.).
New territory is beginning to take form from chaos. We need to establish our ethics and morals as well as ways to punish those who go against our freedoms. We need an overarching organization that will fight for our liberty and provide unbiased regulations to companies who have outgrown the need for public and government approval.
Unfortunately I offer no solutions at this time. I only request that people remain open to the possibility of a future with an altruistic digital governing board and that companies, in the meantime, stick to Google’s old slogan: “Don’t be evil.”