Should I have the right to spread “disinformation” on the internet? Some would say I do not. Thankfully, I have no intention of ever knowingly doing such a thing, but knowing that I can is part of what makes the internet what it is. More importantly, the anonymity the internet provides is one of the cornerstones for its usefulness in modern society.
If a leaked memo last week is any indicator of what’s to come, then my anonymity may no longer be sacred online.
Here’s how Warner is suggesting we deal:
Mandatory location verification. The paper suggests forcing social media platforms to authenticate and disclose the geographic origin of all user accounts or posts.
Mandatory identity verification: The paper suggests forcing social media and tech platforms to authenticate user identities and only allow “authentic” accounts (“inauthentic accounts not only pose threats to our democratic process…but undermine the integrity of digital markets”), with “failure to appropriately address inauthentic account activity” punishable as “a violation of both SEC disclosure rules and/or Section 5 of the [Federal Trade Commission] Act.”
Bot labeling: Warner’s paper suggests forcing companies to somehow label bots or be penalized (no word from Warner on how this is remotely feasible)
Define popular tech as “essential facilities.” These would be subject to all sorts of heightened rules and controls, says the paper, offering Google Maps as an example of the kinds of apps or platforms that might count. “The law would not mandate that a dominant provider offer the serve for free,” writes Warner. “Rather, it would be required to offer it on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms” provided by the government.
Considering how bad the likely interference by Russian operatives through social media really was, it’s easy to see why many would embrace these measures. Nobody wants foreign entities swaying our elections, but what cost are we willing to pay to be protected?
This is a clear example of DC once again attempting to overstep its own powers. We do not need them telling private internet companies what to do and how to handle their members. If Facebook wants to implement these types of measures, so be it. As long as they’re doing so willingly, it’s fine. However, the government does not need to step in. They do not need to “protect” us from our own stupidity.
If I fall for a hoax article claiming President Trump urinated on Russian prostitutes, that’s on me.
Anonymity sucks, but it’s important
To be fair, I have been victim to anonymous trolls on the internet. It bugs me that they can say what they want about or towards me while hiding behind the moniker braveliberal1949, but I would never condone taking his/her right to troll me. They have their reasons for being anonymous and I will fight for their right to remain hidden behind their online persona.
Some would point to Russian interference as a reason to support attacks on our online privacy. It sucks that they can have teams of meat puppets out there trying to mislead as many people as possible. But that’s part of the game. It’s a tactic in the online war we all fight wittingly or not, one that requires diligence but NOT government interference. If they want to help expose foreign actors, that’s on them. They should not use Russia or anyone else as a reason to take away our digital rights just as they shouldn’t have used 9/11 as a reason to take away our other freedoms.
It’s a pretty crazy world online. There’s plenty of bad ideas, false concepts, fake news, and actors intent on hurting us. We have to deal with them. The government cannot provide us with a solution that won’t do more harm than good.