Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai said during a hearing Wednesday the “greatest threat” to a free Internet is the “unregulated Silicon Valley tech giants.”
Chairman Pai charged during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing Silicon Valley serves as the greatest threat to a free Internet.
“The greatest threat to a free and open internet has been the unregulated Silicon Valley tech giants that do, in fact, today decide what you see and what you don’t,” the FCC chief said. There’s no transparency. There’s no consumer protections, and I think bipartisan members of both congressional chambers have now come to that realization.”
Pai’s comments come one day after the agency repealed the Obama-era regulations, which put onerous regulations on Internet service providers (ISPs). As the agency considered repealing the net neutrality regulations, Pai often noted that social media companies such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter, otherwise known as edge providers, served as a greater threat to free expression on the Internet compared to ISPs such as Comcast or Verizon.
To combat the problems surrounding Silicon Valley’s dubious censorship and privacy practices, Pai published a Medium post in September 2018, suggesting that the country needs to think “seriously” about whether social media giants need to abide by “new transparency” requirements.
The FCC chairman pointed out the discrepancy between Internet service providers (ISPs) and content providers such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, where ISPs have “strict transparency requirements” on their blocking and throttling practices, yet there remains little transparency in the social media giants’ content moderation practices.
Should these companies be more transparent about their business practices? Currently, the FCC imposes strict transparency requirements on companies that operate broadband networks — how they manage their networks, performance characteristics, and the like. Yet consumers have virtually no insight into similar business practices by tech giants. Do steps need to be taken to ensure that consumers receive more information about how these companies operate, and if so, what should those steps be and who should take them?
“And we need to seriously think about whether the time has come for these companies to abide by new transparency obligations,” Pai added. “After all, just as is the case with respect to broadband providers, consumers need accurate information in order to make educated choices about whether and how to use these tech giants’ platforms.”
Pai added in his Medium post, “It’s time to have a full and open conversation about the realities of today’s Internet economy.”