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Tech Policy Podcast
52 minutes | Jul 26, 2022
#325: Live: Quinta Jurecic on Jan. 6, Social Media, and the Great Rage
Hello from TechFreedom’s 2022 Policy Summit! The panelists at this year’s gathering discussed truth decay and misinformation, the collapse of trust in experts, and the future of free speech and social media. In this live recording from the event, Lawfare’s Quinta Jurecic explores those themes and more while discussing the January 6 Committee, Trump’s election “Big Lie,” the difficulty of combatting online extremism, the insanity that is Steve Bannon, and the fraying of American civic life. For more, see “The Great Rage,” a must-read essay Quinta published in The Atlantic.
70 minutes | Jul 11, 2022
#324: Parler Games
Is “Big Tech censorship” really a thing? If so, are the social media giants facing effective competition from sites that style themselves as free speech alternatives? What does it mean to be a free speech platform, anyway? Parler’s Chief Policy Officer, Amy Peikoff, discusses these questions and much more with TechFreedom’s Corbin Barthold and Ari Cohn. Needless to say, the talk of the deal between Elon Musk and Twitter, at the top of the episode, was recorded before Musk declared that he wants out! Amy’s law review article on privacy, mentioned toward the end of the show, is available here.
54 minutes | Jun 29, 2022
#323: Florida & Texas vs. the Internet
Last year, Florida and Texas passed draconian social media speech regulations. Each law violates the First Amendment, and, not surprisingly, each was blocked by a federal trial court. On appeal, however, things got weird. Although one appellate court affirmed most of the ruling against Florida’s law (SB 7072), another let Texas’s (HB 20) go into immediate effect. In an emergency order, the Supreme Court re-blocked the Texas law—for now. A further ruling by the justices, probably next year, is all but inevitable. TechFreedom’s Corbin Barthold and Ari Cohn break down the situation. For more, see a recent article by Corbin, “Trumpism on the Bench?,” published at The Bulwark; a recent article by TechFreedom’s Berin Szóka, “Mass Shooting Videos Are Protected Under These Awful Laws,” published at The Daily Beast; and Corbin’s and Berin’s joint essay “No, Florida Can’t Regulate Online Speech,” published at Lawfare.
56 minutes | Jun 2, 2022
#322: FTC Commissioner Noah Phillips
Commissioner Noah Phillips joins the show for a wide-ranging discussion about the Federal Trade Commission. Topics include “unfair methods of competition” rulemaking, the history of the FTC, merger guidelines, the consumer-welfare standard and free-of-charge products, administrative tribunals, the history of the Sherman Act, and neo-Brandeisian antitrust in a time of inflation.
52 minutes | May 24, 2022
#321: Musk’s Moderation Musings (And Beyond)
Ever since his (putative) deal to buy Twitter was announced, Elon Musk has hijacked the debates around content moderation, the design of social media, and online speech. His comments on these subjects are a mish-mash of (sometimes contradictory) slogans. Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Berin Szóka, founder and president of TechFreedom, join the show for a more informed exploration of these topics. Along with host Corbin Barthold, they discuss the nuances of social media transparency, the value of user anonymity, the promise of decentralized protocols, and more. Mentioned on this episode: the Santa Clara Principles; articles on the Musk/Twitter deal by Jillian, Berin, and Corbin; and EFF’s new Tracking Global Censorship project.
44 minutes | May 17, 2022
#320: The Right and Social Media
Evolving technology—not to mention evolving norms in Silicon Valley—has sparked fierce debate about online speech. Are social media platforms too powerful? Do their content moderation policies strike a good balance between free speech and healthy conversation? Should the government get involved in policing disinformation? In this episode, we home in on how the American Right views these issues. Nate Hochman, an ISI fellow at National Review, and Rachel Altman, TechFreedom’s director of digital media, join the show to discuss the federal government’s new “Disinformation Governance Board,” Elon Musk’s planned acquisition of Twitter, and what conservative political philosophy might tell us about how to approach content moderation. For more, see Nate’s recent piece at National Review: “Elon Musk’s Town Square.”
44 minutes | May 10, 2022
#319: Remember FAANG?
In 2017 or so, people started to assert that the FAANG companies—Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google—were unstoppable juggernauts. Lately that claim has taken some hard hits, as Facebook (now Meta) and Netflix, facing stiff competition, have seen their stock prices tumble. Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, joins the show to discuss how the Schumpeterian “gale of creative destruction” unseats dominant market players, why government antitrust cases so often look foolish in hindsight, and why we should celebrate innovation (spoiler: it leads to progress and human betterment). Adam also discusses his book Evasive Entrepreneurs and the Future of Governance: How Innovation Improves Economies and Governments. Corbin’s piece on monkeys and double pendulums—mentioned around 20:30—is “Can Experts Structure Markets? Don’t Count on It.”
39 minutes | Apr 27, 2022
#318: The Universal Service Fund
Though its goal—to help bridge the digital divide—is laudible, the Universal Service Fund is a badly structured, badly run, wasteful, much abused, unsustainable program. Jim Dunstan, general counsel at TechFreedom, joins the show to discuss the many problems with the USF, and some of the proposals to fix it. For more, see Jim’s piece for the Regulatory Transparency Project, “The Arrival of the Federal Computer Commission?”; Corbin’s piece at Law & Liberty, “No Legislation Without Representation”; TechFreedom’s recent comments to the FCC on the future of the USF; and TechFreedom’s recent amicus brief on the unconstitutionality of the private entity that oversees the USF, the Universal Service Administrative Company.
51 minutes | Apr 12, 2022
#317: Making Progress
Are we doomed to collapse, like Ancient Rome? Or will we continue to make scientific discoveries, build technological innovations, and increase our wealth and well-being indefinitely? Alec Stapp is the co-founder of a new think tank, The Institute for Progress. He joins the show to discuss what drives progress, what political and cultural forces obstruct it, and how he hopes to accelerate it through his new organization.
46 minutes | Mar 31, 2022
#316: Putin’s War and the Internet
In response to Russia’s invasion, Ukraine has lobbied the international community to impair Russia’s Internet infrastructure. The Russian state itself, meanwhile, has restricted its own citizens’ access to social media and other websites. Shane Tews, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, joins the show to discuss how the Internet works, whether the West can—or should—restrict the Internet in Russia, and whether looming technological advances will help keep the Internet open and resilient. For more, see Shane’s recent article, “Is shutting down the Russian internet an act of tyranny or democracy?”
55 minutes | Mar 24, 2022
#315: Social Media “Transparency” as First Amendment Violation
Can the government require social media services to disclose data, or provide notifications, related to their content moderation practices? Many politicians seem to think so: they’re enacting such “transparency” rules as a second-best way to try to control how websites moderate content. In a forthcoming law review article, “The Constitutionality of Mandating Editorial Transparency,” Eric Goldman, a professor and associate dean at Santa Clara Law, explains why mandated “transparency” for online speech violates the First Amendment. Prof. Goldman joins the show to discusse his paper, analyze “transparency” mandates recently passed by Florida and Texas, and explain why this is such a crucial moment for free speech on the Internet.
60 minutes | Mar 15, 2022
#314: The State of Internet Freedom
The Internet can be a powerful tool for decentralization and resistance. Lately, however, authorities from across the political spectrum have been trying to use it to enforce conformity and exert control. Ari Cohn, TechFreedom’s Free Speech Counsel, and Rachel Altman, its Director of Digital Media, join the show to discuss government efforts to stamp out the Canadian trucker protest, to limit end-to-end encryption, and to dictate how private companies engage in content moderation; and to assess what those efforts mean for the future of Internet freedom.
57 minutes | Mar 3, 2022
#313: Responding to the Broadband Populists
Activists like to shower the American broadband industry with criticism. In a new paper, Anticorporate Broadband Populists’ Real Agenda: Destroy the Current Private-Sector System, Robert Atkinson, founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, highlights the activists’ ultimate goal: to turn broadband into a government-run utility. Rob joins TechFreedom’s Corbin Barthold and James Dunstan to discuss the holes in the activists’ arguments, the problems with municipal broadband, and the (pretty darn good) state of the broadband industry.
50 minutes | Feb 22, 2022
Web3 could lead to greater decentralization, authentication, and immutability on the Internet. But what does that mean? It’s about much more than just crypto and NFTs. Joining the show to break things down are Hillary Brill, a senior fellow at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law and Policy, and Gabrielle Hibbert, co-founder of Bloom, a Web3 development education program for women and genderqueer individuals. They discuss whether Web3 is in fact the “next big thing” for the Internet, explain the technology that makes it possible, and dispel some of the misconceptions about it. Hillary and Gabrielle are both members of the Decentralized Future Council, an initiative that aims to help policymakers understand decentralized technologies.
37 minutes | Feb 3, 2022
#311: Administrative Law, and Why You Should Care
Administrative law—including key administrative law principles, such as the “major questions” and “nondelegation” doctrines—deserves far greater public attention. You’ll find out why on this episode, in which host Corbin Barthold is joined by Andrew Grossman, a partner at BakerHostetler and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. Andrew is counsel for a party in West Virginia v. EPA, an important administrative law case before the Supreme Court this term. He and Corbin discuss major questions, nondelegation, the West Virginia litigation, the importance of the constitutional separation of powers, the future of the administrative state, and more. Catch the oral argument in West Virginia on February 28. Also, check out Corbin’s recent paper on these issues: A Path Forward on Nondelegation.
53 minutes | Jan 20, 2022
#310: Algorithmic Amplification
Algorithmic amplification is the latest hot topic in the (seemingly endless) debate over social media content moderation. Legislators are introducing bills that would regulate when and how social media websites may “amplify” content by placing it near the top of people’s newsfeeds. But are these bills constitutional? Do they even address the problems the legislators claim to care about? Daphne Keller, a fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society, is the author of Amplification and Its Discontents, a seminal paper on these subjects. She joins host Corbin Barthold and Ari Cohn, Free Speech Counsel at TechFreedom, to discuss her paper, the obstacles to regulating speech-related algorithms, the fact that there is no “un-amplified” social media Eden to return to, and more.
52 minutes | Jan 11, 2022
#309: Conspiracy Theories and the Internet
Is social media accelerating the spread of conspiracy theories? It sure feels like it: look at anti-vaxxers, claims about election fraud, and QAnon. Professor Joseph Uscinski, a political scientist at the University of Miami, argues that this widespread hunch is not supported by the evidence. He and host Corbin Barthold examine that view, with a focus on what polling data says about the prevalence of conspiracy theories over time. They also discuss how the Internet affects public opinion (or not), when conspiracy theories become dangerous, how people should form beliefs, whether birds are real, whether King James II fathered a “warming pan baby,” and more.
46 minutes | Dec 21, 2021
#308: All Eyes on the FTC
The Federal Trade Commission is making headlines lately, as its new chair, Lina Khan, seeks to impose a “neo-Brandeisian” antitrust agenda. Adam Cella, an attorney advisor to FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson, joins the show to discuss what’s happening at the agency. For more, see Commissioner Wilson’s speech, The Neo-Brandeisian Revolution: Unforced Errors and the Diminution of the FTC, given last month at the ABA Antitrust Law Section’s Fall Forum.
57 minutes | Dec 14, 2021
#307: Complexity Theory in One Lesson
Neil Chilson has written a great new book: Getting Out of Control: Emergent Leadership in a Complex World. He and host Corbin Barthold discuss the book, complexity, emergent phenomena, effective leadership in a fast-changing world, and the need for epistemic humility in policymaking (and elsewhere). Also covered: fractals, free will, and the risks of taking advice from hermits in caves. Neil is a senior research fellow for technology and innovation at Stand Together and a former chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission.
56 minutes | Nov 23, 2021
#306: The New Space Race
Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and even William Shatner have just been to space. Elon Musk is building rockets, launching satellites, and dreaming of going to Mars. The reaction on Twitter has been . . . snark!? TechFreedom’s own James Dunstan (a bona fide space lawyer) and Corbin Barthold (who’s been on Disneyland’s Space Mountain ride) discuss the new space entrepreneurs, the regulatory hurdles they face, and why people should root for them to succeed. For more, see Jim’s Medium post, “Bring on the Space Barons,” and Corbin’s article in The Bulwark on SpaceX’s Starlink satellite project.
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