Monday, March 03, 2008

Ways to Limit Free Speech on the Web by Promoting Free Speech

Paul Kapustka formerly of GigaOm now with his own cutting blog, Sidecut Reports, has an excellent post up regarding some fake "news" created as a PR effort by internet providers to suggest that there is a grass roots movement against network neutrality on free speech grounds.

He was particularly bemused that mainstream media outlets picked up on it as news rather than the flogging it actually was. However, it is worth noting here that the free speech implications of the network neutrality debate are particularly pointed. At only one time in our history have we let our government restrict speech in public communications and that was for over the air broadcasting. In particular, the FCC believed that over the air broadcasting a) was in the public interest to promote and b) utilized a scarce resource (wireless spectrum). As such, they believed that they had to create strict rules on what broadcasters could and could not say in order to ensure that the scarce airwaves were used to their maximum public benefit. Without the scarcity of the airwaves, all things that wanted to get published to the airwaves, in theory, would have been.

Those who argue that P2P file sharing creates scarcity on the internet and thus limits the freedom of speech are playing right into the public interest/scarcity trap that gave the FCC the right to regulate speech in the 1940s to the present day. And that, my friends, would be killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

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