The Internet as We Know It

One can have many opinions about the European Commission’s plans for a Digital Single Market, some of them may “need some more work”, such as the fixation on limiting territorial exclusivity for content services – which can result in less investment in European content, less revenue and fewer jobs, but perhaps most importantly fewer services tailored to the local taste of the consumer. But in order to have a single market, there needs to be a market in the first place and the Commission should get credit for its efforts to make a functioning online market place. The recipe is simple, go after those who profit from illegal activity – “follow the money”. Since the global pseudonymous network is notoriously difficult to regulate, the law needs help from those private companies who govern the cables and platforms.

This is not rocket science, same method applies for example to the global banking system, where the middle-man must take steps to stop or limit money-laundering, fraud, funding of terrorist activity and such. Yes, this makes it more work to open bank accounts or move large amounts of cash across borders, but the cause is good, right? Would the world be a better place if banks had “intermediary immunity” and no responsibility whatsoever for enabling criminal activity? Would there perhaps be more “permissionless innovation” in the finance system if we said “asking the banks to take action is outrageous, it would put an end to finance as we know it”? Is there some benefit in allowing terrorist organisations to move funds without limitation, saying only it is an issue for the police and authorities to deal with? And should the risk of abuse of the protection measures mean they should not be there in the first place? Maybe better to have a function to deal with such abuse, no? Baby, bathwater, you know the story.

Anytime a legislator tries to tackle any problem in the internet space, there is a tired choir singing the same old tune: “you can’t stop technology”, “it will kill the Internet as we know it”, “it’s the price we pay for all the blessings the Internet gives”. There is even a pre-defined format for such critique (hint: start by invoking the victories against SOPA and PIPA). Now this crooked chorus is heard once again, this time directed toward the part of the DSM strategy that looks at how to deal with the black market online. Do they really think anyone will buy the line that it is the regulation that stops innovation and competition online? Funny, I thought it was the incumbents. Ironic how the grass root rebels find themselves defending the digital monoliths.

Sign that letter? No thanks, but happy Easter to you all. Nothing can stop eggs as we know them.