Back in 2011, the Federal Trade Commission alleged that Facebook deceived consumers by failing to keep its promises to protect user privacy. The two parties agreed to settle the charges through something called an “agreement containing consent order.” The Commission also signed a consent agreement with Google that same year. The FTC issued a final Decision and Consent Order regarding the Facebook allegations in 2012. (A consent order is an FTC enforcement tool that operates like a legal settlement.) Without admitting to the complaint’s counts, the parties involved signed a document that basically says, “we both agree to enter this agreement to resolve the allegations in the complaint, so now you have to do the following things, and if you fail to do any of them, the FTC is going to impose financial penalties.”
On June 20-21, the European Parliament will vote on the European Commission’s update of the Copyright Directive. The Directive aims to modernize the EU’s copyright rules to handle problems posed by the evolving digital world, with the stated goal of creating legislation that will unify Europe’s “Digital Single Market.” It has been the subject of international scrutiny, as European technology policy changes often spark global changes.
Today, June 11, marks the end of the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules. The agency created the rules in its landmark 2015 Open Internet Order, which prevented internet service providers from blocking websites, throttling connection speeds, or engaging in paid prioritization schemes to charge for “fast lane” access. The FCC, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, voted to repeal the rules in December 2017, ignoring millions of Americans who urged the agency to put people first by keeping the rules.
Liberal democracies and professional journalism face two intertwined challenges: Internet platforms have become gatekeepers of information, and it is increasingly hard for consumers to distinguish information from disinformation. So far, there have been two sets of prevalent policy responses to these challenges. The first set of solutions envisions the news business as competing with both social media platforms and news aggregators and seeks to “level the playing field” by either granting news publishers antitrust immunity, enabling them to engage in collective bargaining to extract higher compensation from digital platforms, or expanding copyright law to require licensing fees for linking to news articles. Alternatively, others demand that internet companies find ways to monitor and censor the content shared in their platforms.