October 17, 2020
A common problem in policy circles is that government protections that redistribute income upward are defined as part of the market, and getting rid of them or weakening them is described as government intervention. This issue comes up most frequently with government-granted patent monopolies with prescription drugs. Any measure to lower prices by weakening patent monopoly protections is treated as a government intervention, while the patent monopoly itself is treated as the free market. And, just to remind people, patent monopolies on prescription drugs cost us more than $400 billion annually, more than twice the amount at stake with the Trump tax cut.
This Washington Post piece describes the prospect of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) removing Section 230 protection for Internet intermediaries, like Facebook and Twitter, as “regulation.” This turns reality on its head. Removing this protection would mean that Internet intermediaries would be subject to the same rules on libel as traditional media outlets like CNN and the Washington Post. There is no obvious reason why an Internet intermediary should be subject to different standards, although this protection does obviously increase their profits and allow people like Mark Zuckerberg to get very rich.
It is worth noting that this threat to remove Section 230 protections from FCC chair Ajit Pai, is obviously an act of political intimidation directed at Facebook and Twitter. The FCC is supposed to be nonpolitical. This should be the basis for removing him as FCC chair.