Regulatory Advocates Share Common Themes & Approaches
WASHINGTON D.C. - Efforts to regulate both free speech and online privacy are united by an elitist vision and common regulatory mechanisms, argue Adam Thierer and Berin Szoka in "What Unites Advocates of Speech Controls & Privacy Regulation?" released today by The Progress & Freedom Foundation. The better alternative to political elitism enforced by regulation, they argue, is an empowerment agenda based on fostering an environment in which users have the tools and information they need to make decisions for themselves and their families.
In the paper, PFF senior fellows Thierer and Szoka attack the imposition of the elitist beliefs and values held by some leaders, activists, or intellectuals through coercive, top-down mandates. They show how two elitist beliefs in particular are at the root of almost all privacy and speech regulatory efforts: (1) the belief that people are too ignorant (or simply too busy) to be trusted to make wise decisions for themselves (or their children); and/or, (2) the belief that all or most people share essentially the same values or concerns and, therefore, "community standards" should trump household (or individual) standards.
Enforcing these elitist beliefs by law threatens individual liberty and free speech as well as the future of free and open Internet, Thierer and Szoka argue. The authors also discuss other parallels between the two regulatory movements, including internal philosophical inconsistencies on both the Left and Right, common mechanisms, political tactics, and motivations. They conclude that an agenda of self-empowerment that lets users and families, instead of political elites, determine what is in their own best interest is superior to top-down regulation.
"What Unites Advocates of Speech Controls & Privacy Regulation?" is available on the PFF website. PFF also produces a book, "Parental Controls and Online Protection: A Survey of Tools and Methods," which offers parents and policymakers a comprehensive inventory of the many excellent tools and strategies that can be used to protect kids online.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.