Countries have laws, and, for the most part, people follow them. We have a fairly good understanding of what is legal and illegal here in the United States. We don't lie on our taxes. we don't go twice the speed limit. (hopefully)
But what about the internet? Are online "laws" as clear cut? Evidently not. The Federal Communications Commission goes back and forth, loosening and tightening internet regulations in the U.S. Net Neutrality is a governmental issue decided by the FCC, but free speech is more ambiguous.
The issue that arises when it comes to the internet, as outlined in a New York Times piece, is that the internet is a global platform, yet leaving its regulation up to individual governments would eliminate its vast influence, and limit our potential interaction. Either way we look at it, a handful of entities are regulating billions of people, or individual governments have full control. Neither option presents security of the internet's future.
My first instinct when being asked about this topic as a media management graduate student at Syracuse University was to get the government involved. After all, net neutrality is only preserved with a fair amount of government regulation to ensure fair practices on the internet. The government is all about protecting the internet, right?
Well, here in the United States and in many other countries, I wouldn't have a major issue with the government stepping in even more to regulate some internet content based on what is true and ethical. The only problem is, giving our government so much power in turn gives governments around the world the same amount of power. We can only regulate within our borders, but when a China or North Korea uses Facebook for disturbing propaganda, it comes back to hurt Facebook, a U.S. based company.
Is leaving Facebook completely in charge of their own content a better idea? Not necessarily. This comes with its issues too. Facebook profits from so much of this negative content that we'd like to regulate. They may not be fully good intentioned and unbiased, given how much their platform can benefit from all sorts of frightening perspectives.
All this to say that there is no clear cut answer on who should have control of the internet. I only bring up Facebook because it is one large example, but all sorts of websites containing controversial and often false content raise similar questions.
Twitter and India got into a tussle recently about the government's desire to delete online content. Are they allowed to do it? Well, that's the question.. but since they make the rules, yeah, kind of. It's a gray area that can go either way but since the government ultimately decides, they can sort of bully everybody into just doing what they say. But then again, the consequences could be so threatening that a government will just leave it all up to the people. It all depends on the administration, and which government we're talking about.
So naturally, there are some checks and balances given the power of the internet itself and the power of individual governments. But ultimately, that doesn't really answer the question at hand.
I'd like to think that leaving the internet to the public is the best solution for two reasons. One, because that's what can make it such a powerful tool, uniting people and cultures from all around the world on one digital space. But also because if we regulate it, it opens the door for everyone to regulate it. And we've already seen how North Korea and other countries have used it as a means of control. Our good intentions could backfire on the rest of the world.
So, yeah. It's a tough question. Who decides? Maybe you could shed some light on this debate.