Big Tech’s over-the-top censorship is abhorrent. So are the growing surveillance capabilities of Big Brother. If you aren’t concerned about free speech and privacy online, you should be.
Most people don’t realize the way we normally consume and share information online relies on a centralized entity that decides what should and should not be allowed. By scrolling through Facebook or typing searches into Google, we leave ourselves open to algorithms that can influence our behavior, censor what we say or harvest our data.
But we should be wary of calls by politicians to fight problems like censorship by growing government. If the problem with Big Tech is centralized control of online activity, then Big Government — the most centralized authority of all — can never be the solution. The answer lies instead in decentralizing control of online activity to make it more free and secure.
Here are three ways policymakers can clear the path for Decentralized Tech:
1. Resist tech centralization. More lawmakers are leveraging the unpopularity of Big Tech to push their own agendas for power.
People are also reading…
Some, like Democrat Senator Amy Klobuchar, seek to dramatically expand the reach of federal antitrust oversight, giving government unprecedented control over private business decisions. While the intent of such proposals is to promote competition, the effect would be to crush American tech’s competitiveness on the global stage. Critics say one of Klobuchar’s proposals could effectively end popular services like Amazon Prime as we know it.
Even more menacing is the idea that government might abuse expanded antitrust authority to push a political agenda that has nothing to do with business competition. Could we begin to see companies targeted with antitrust enforcement unless they embrace climate action goals or ‘woke’ equity quotas?
Elsewhere, state lawmakers have sought to put government in charge of standards for content moderation. If Big Tech censorship is bad, just wait until we have politicians deciding what speech is or is not allowed online!
Lawmakers should resist the temptation to increase government control over the tech industry. Replacing Big Tech with Big Government will only serve to entrench the status quo.
2. Embrace tech decentralization with the law. Thankfully, Decentralized Tech has emerged as the antidote to the ills of Big Tech and Big Brother. Entrepreneurs use blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, to create robust peer-to-peer platforms which allow strangers to securely interact without requiring approval from a central third party. Social platforms like Minds utilize blockchain to offer an open-source, censorship-resistant alternative to traditional social media. Popular ‘metaverse’ projects like Decentraland take decentralization to the next level, putting users in full control of governing the platform.
But entrepreneurs face vast legal uncertainty about building decentralized organizations. Old school regulatory frameworks must be updated to accommodate the decentralized organizations of the future.
Montana policymakers should consider following the lead of Wyoming and Tennessee, creating a framework to legally recognize decentralized organizations. These reforms would provide the certainty needed for people to build, invest and participate in decentralized platforms here in Montana.
3. Create a Regulatory Sandbox. Lawmakers could implement a Regulatory Sandbox to fast-track decentralized tech to the market by temporarily waiving red tape standing in the way. A Regulatory Sandbox would provide flexibility to accommodate decentralized tech entrepreneurs while also giving policymakers time to safely test and learn the effects of waiving certain regulations.
Everyone can agree that censorship and surveillance online is deeply troubling. Decentralized Tech can help make our online activity more free and secure than ever.
Kendall Cotton is president and CEO of the Frontier Institute, a think tank dedicated to breaking down government barriers so all Montanans can thrive.