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Who ultimately controls the web?

Canada's Supreme Court order to Google raises the issue of Internet sovereignty

Who ultimately controls the web?

Does Canada own the internet? The question may sound like a joke, but it’s the serious challenge presented by a Canadian Supreme Court decision issued last week. The court ordered Google to deindex search results that were letting one side of a lawsuit violate the intellectual property rights of the other -- not just in Canada, but worldwide.

The court tried to avoid the difficult free-speech issues by saying those weren’t involved in the case. But what makes the precedent so important is that it raises the core problem of who gets to regulate the internet by ordering around search companies and social media. The U.S. Supreme Court recently clarified that it thinks the First Amendment mostly blocks the U.S. government from such regulation. That leaves other governments like Canada -- or Germany, which on Friday enacted legislation that forces social media entities to remove unwanted content.

A good way to think about regulation in the internet age is to consider two radically different views about who should be doing it, if anyone. In the U.S., the internet is treated as a free-speech zone made up of “vast democratic forums,” as Justice Anthony Kennedy said in a recent opinion. The federal government and the states can’t do much to regulate what is said in that space.

At the same time, the means we use to access that vast forum, such as search engines like Google or social media platforms like Facebook, are treated under U.S. law as private entities with free speech rights of their own. That means Google and Facebook can shape access to content as they please, subject only to market pressures. The First Amendment protects their right to do so.

In sharp contrast to the U.S. model is the approach exemplified by the Canadian decision, as well as by European laws. According to this view, governments are entitled to regulate what happens on the internet in order to protect their citizens according to their own laws.

This article continues at [Bloomberg] For a More Regulated Internet, Thank Canada

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