Today, not only political discourse but also the professional and personal lives of most people younger than 50 depend on the Internet. Yet all of that is controlled by six huge Big Tech corporations: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Twitter.
Violation of the First Amendment
The key to the current state of the Internet is the Obamanet (which its supporters call net neutrality) passed by the FCC in 2010 for the first time. This is likely the most radical infringement, or even denial, of the First Amendment by the federal government in US history. It effectively prohibited freedom of speech and the press on the Internet.
From Obamanet (2010): “Purchasing a higher quality of termination service for one’s own Internet traffic, though, is not speech.” The “termination service” phrase is somewhat ignorant. ISP fees cover all the costs of delivering Internet traffic, not just termination. That pays for the Internet infrastructure build-up, from programming routers to laying fiber cables, and maintenance.
Public speech always requires means of its replication in a physical medium. Take away them, and the freedom of speech is gone. In the 18th century, speech was reproduced on paper using a printing press: hence, the words “freedom of the press” in the First Amendment. In the 21st century, speech is reproduced by delivery over the Internet. The right to purchase this delivery, including termination services by a retail ISP, is guaranteed by the First Amendment. The Obamanet (2010) text acknowledged that it was taking this right away, although buried this acknowledgement in 55,000 words of the text.
Under Obamanet, Internet users are forced to pay for speech with which they disagree and for which they are unwilling to pay, that is, unconstitutional compelled speech. That includes foreign governments propaganda.
These regulations were spearheaded by the Marxist group Free Press, as part of a media reform agenda intended to topple the First Amendment and the “capitalist system” (as they call the Constitutional order). The Free Press was financed by Google, George Soros, the Ford Foundation, and other the usual suspects, even before Obama. Barack Obama appointed his Harvard classmate Julius Genachowski FCC chairman. The latter hired some staff and to implemented the Free Press’ policies.
To ensure the benefits accrued to the friends, the Obama administration opened multiple accounts on Google’s YouTube, Facebook, Microsoft’s LinkedIn, and Twitter—on their terms. These accounts are part of government communication. Obamanet included exceptions for other friendly special interests. Device manufacturers were allowed to purchase bandwidth, the carve out for Amazon and Apple. Amazon purchases bandwidth for content delivery to Kindle. All the Big Tech companies are Obamanet beneficiaries.
At that time, most people did not understand Obamanet, and Silicon Valley supported it. The conservative opposition could not stop the Obama administration. Obamanet was repealed twice—by the DC Court of Appeals in 2014 and by the Trump FCC in 2017. Each time, it was restored—by the FCC in 2015 and by political threats and by blue state legislatures since 2018.
Although a physical medium is necessary for speech products (newspapers, books, journals etc.), most of their value is content, protected by copyright laws. On the Internet, the Obama administration decided not to enforce copyright, except for its friends in the RIAA and MPAA. Google has built its business on the copyright infringement of text-based content, and the Obama administration might have interfered to protect this business model.
Through Obamanet and other government actions, Democrats succeeded in nearly banning conservative speech and other dissent on the Internet. Fox News is ex-conservative.
It is not a self-contradiction or exaggeration. Today, the conservative publications are a drop in the sea of fake news and Democrat-Socialist propaganda. The relative power of the “kitchen talk” to the official Communist propaganda in the former Soviet Union was likely higher than that of the conservative media to the official Democrat–Socialist propaganda in the US today.
The successful suppression of multiple COVID-19 cures proves these words.
The Fourth Amendment
Old telecom regulations were directed at phone companies and ended outside or in the walls of our homes where phone jacks are. Obamanet reached deep into our homes, where Internet modem routers are, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects.”
Then, Obamanet banned network-level content filtering, which subscribers could employ to enjoy a family-friendly-content Internet experience and reliable parental controls. In 2010, people could install parental controls on the home computers, but this is impossible today because of the proliferation of mobile devices and social media. Obamanet also exposed users in their homes to hacking and malware from all over the world.
Warped Legal Thinking
Currently, even lawmakers, judges, and attorneys struggle to understand the business relationships between Internet companies (the term that includes centralized Big Tech and local ISPs), and their consumers. Contractual and consumer protection laws govern these relationships. It seems that, with Obamanet, neo-Marxist logic has infiltrated our legal system. In 2010, Obama’s FCC pretended that neither contract nor consumer protection laws protected ISP consumers, so the FCC needed to protect them by regulation. Today, Big Tech advocates pretend that neither contract nor consumer protection laws protect their consumers, so courts should ignore consumers’ grievances and strike state consumer protection laws.
States and the Internet
The blue states enacted Obamanet variations at the state level, with the long-arm effect spreading to other states. Free states may fix this problem for their residents (and the rest of the nation) by enacting anti-Obamanet laws. Such laws might demand ISPs above a certain size or local market penetration sell last-mile access and bandwidth to other providers, having business models not allowed by Obamanet. For example, a reasonable plan might include a minimum payment for general Internet use, such as $5 monthly. Content providers pay the rest for the priority delivery of their content to users. Not less importantly, they could provide content-filtering services to protect minors. Of course, such ISPs would have to make disclosures and accept binding obligations toward customers regarding the services that they provide.
Free states can also pass laws, restricting the collection, aggregation, and use of private data by Internet companies. Consumers have not given their consent for their data collection and use by Big Tech anyway. In such laws, following the European Union example would be a big mistake. The EU privacy laws do allow Big Tech to collect and abuse consumer’s data, provided they got the consumer to click a Consent button.
Free states should demand informed consent for broad waivers of privacy rights, as in medical procedures.
2023-03-07 update: In response to the FCC decision to revoke Obamanet (the Restoring Internet Freedom order), far left groups and Big Tech ran massive propaganda and manipulation campaign against it. The campaign resulted in multiple threats against then FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. On Dec. 19-20, 2017, some Markara Man, 33, of Norwalk, CT, sent multiple emails to Chairman Pai, listing pre-schools near Pai’s home and threatening to find and murder his children.
Violation of the First Amendment
First published on Substack on 2023-02-21. Updated here on 2023-02-21.