Posts by John Bergmayer:

The previous post was about what Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act does, and why it does it. One theme is that Section 230 is a very broad and powerful statute. But the law can change, and given that digital platforms have a very different role in society and the economy now than they did in 1996, when the law was passed, maybe it should. This post will list some proposals that I am not necessarily endorsing, but which may be worth considering. But before that, it’s also important to realize that Section 230 has limits even under the law today.
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Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunizes internet platforms from any liability as a publisher or speaker for third-party content — and is one of the most important and wide-reaching laws that affect the internet. With the increased attention on online platforms in the past few years, it has become one of the most controversial. It’s also widely misunderstood, or misconstrued, both by its supporters and detractors. Much of the discourse around this law has focused on two extremes — on the one hand, from those who want to defend it at any cost and view it as a general charter against platform regulation, and on the other hand, from those who simply want to repeal it without realizing what the consequences of this could be. At the same time, both the press and politicians tend to either overstate or misunderstand what 230 does.
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Back in November, Public Knowledge and Open Markets Institute argued to the International Trade Commission that it would violate the public interest to grant Qualcomm’s request to ban iPhones that used Intel baseband technology from the U.S. market. We wrote then,
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App stores, such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store, have been good for consumers and independent developers in a number of ways. When they work well, they provide consumers with a convenient way to find and buy software that is safe and functional. I remember when my non-technical friends would never install software on their PCs, assuming that it was all a scam or malware of some kind. Now these same people can confidently install, use, and uninstall apps without fearing that it will ruin their devices or steal their personal information. Again, this is when things are working right. There are always bad actors to be vigilant against, and different app store curators do their jobs more and less well.
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In light of AT&T’s decision to raise the prices on DirecTV Now subscribers by $10/month, and to drop channels like MTV, Comedy Central, BET, and BBC America (while adding more AT&T-owned content to the bundle), it’s worth reviewing some of what the telecom giant claimed during the recent trial over its merger with Time Warner:
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On Friday, Petitioners (including Public Knowledge) finally got to make their case in court that the Federal Communications Commission’s reckless abdication of responsibility over broadband was also illegal. For about five hours, in the ceremonial courtroom of the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse, in front of D.C. Circuit Judges Millett, Williams, and Wilkins, attorneys for Petitioners, for the FCC, and for intervenors on both sides got a grilling in a court that has become a regular forum for disputes over the status of broadband and the lawfulness of net neutrality rules.
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There was a recent viral story about Apple “deleting” purchased movies from someone’s library. As always with these stories, there’s a little more to it, but I’m here to tell you that the details don’t really matter. And because this is being published on the International Day Against DRM, I’m here to tell you that it’s DRM’s fault.
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I’ve listened to podcasts pretty heavily for about 13 years now, since Apple added a podcast directory to iTunes. (I probably manually downloaded a few podcasts even before then, but the process was pretty cumbersome.) But I’m not here to brag about my podcast cred, which would be incredibly nerdy even by my standards, but to outline how the structure of podcast distribution is almost ideal for people who are concerned with private platforms having too much control over speech. It can serve as a model for how cool internet services don’t have to come at the cost of enabling monopolistic private platforms or giving up your privacy.
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This recent story (paywalled) about the financial challenges YouTube TV and other “virtual cable” providers face is a good illustration of some points we’ve been making at Public Knowledge for a while. As the story notes, “these streaming services have yet to figure out how to make money. In fact, the more people they sign up, the more money they lose. That’s because the services are paying more for programming than what they’re charging consumers.”
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Today, Public Knowledge released a paper, “Even Under Kind Masters,” that recommends that dominant internet platforms provide users with due process. It is just one component of our plan to increase the work we do relating to internet platforms.
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