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The Battle for Regulation and Neutrality

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John Dye
Professor Gage
English 1301
September, 2020
The Battle for Regulation and Neutrality
On the sixth of August, 1991, most people in Geneva, Switzerland were preparing for
work, or perhaps readying their children for the coming school semester. On the northwest side
of the city, however, thirty-six-year-old Tim Berners-Lee was making history. He had invented a
truly world-changing online information system, which he named the “World Wide Web.” Of
course, earlier forms of the internet had existed long before Tim Berners-Lee made his
innovation public, but they were government-funded platforms, used only by researchers and
scientists. With Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, anyone across the globe could access the
His invention was an obvious success, as today there are over 4.3 billion internet users
worldwide. In the United States alone, there are 288 million internet users, accounting for about
88% of the nation’s total population. With the rapid expansion of a public platform where users
can view, create, and share all kinds of content, the question must be asked: Should certain
content be censored from the World Wide Web? Is internet regulation an admirable concept, or
would it simply restrict one’s rights, violating the 1st amendment? This very question came up
relatively recently, in fact, and in the early 2010s, several arguments were made in an attempt to
answer it. The issue on the table for the United States was one of “net neutrality.” Defining this
term is fairly simple. It is the prospect that the government, as well as Internet Service Providers
(ISPs) such as AT&T or Verizon Wireless, should not be able to regulate content on their
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platforms. Some were all for it, and others were disgusted at the very thought. In order to better
understand both sides, I think it would be profitable to examine the reasoning of the opponents
and supporters of net neutrality.
Those in favor of government regulation of the internet have several main points in their
rationale, but for the sake of concision, I will examine only three. First is the notion that
technological industries are prejudiced to certain views; this could lead to content bias,
potentially violating the First Amendment. Second is the argument that users on various forums
may be inclined to agree with certain viewpoints, causing that particular perspective to be
advertently popular within its platform. The third argument made by pro-regulation functionaries
is that of Homeland Security. They believe that if the government were to monitor the Internet’s
activity, it could prevent threats to the safety of the people.
The first of the arguments in favor of regulation is that of ISP’s political influence of their
platforms. To illustrate an example of this, picture a hypothetical tech company named Teflon
Communications. They are a social media service based in a random location in the United
States. Every day, they service millions of users, providing a social media outlet, as well internet
connection. If Teflon Communications bought all other competition, they would form a
monopoly. Because of the extreme partisan behaviour of the higher ups, however, they censor
certain content from their platform. This, as stated earlier, is a violation of the First Amendment.
With government regulation, however, such bias would be impossible. As a journalist for
cato.org put it, “Private institutions discriminate among viewpoints all the time, and few would
wish the government to manage their agendas to assure fairness or balance.”(Samples, “Content
Moderation of Social Media”) Pro-regulation officials debate that cases such as this can be seen
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beyond the hypothetical dimension. Besides, if a tech company did, in fact, have a monopoly,
would not the users on such platforms be biased themselves?
This question of bias is the second argument the regulation supporters make. They
believe that a specific group of users would flock to certain platforms where their views are
popular, making their opinions only more widespread. As the aforementioned journalist puts it,
“Once again, groups of the like‐​minded have formed. Indeed, the cost of speech and association
has fallen so fast that we might expect that more people will be more involved in more
like‐​minded groups than ever.”(Samples, “Content Moderation of Social Media”) It’s as simple
as the proverb, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Pro-regulation advocates will tell
you that people tend to be most outspoken in groups where their worldview is accepted. Because
of this, without government regulation, harmful political and social perspectives could multiply.
These damaging views could potentially foster terrorism and undermine the American way of
This leads to the third pro-regulation argument. They say that government ordinances
would protect and defend the people of America. To refuse government control in favor of
net-neutrality is not just dangerous, it is destructive. Ever since the tragedy of 9/11, homeland
security has been at the top of the list for government agencies. If the government were to
monitor the internet, they could easily stop likely threats before any damage could be done. It’s
childishly simple. If a group of potential terrorists communicated their plans via a semi-public
internet forum, the government would know, and be able to protect the American people from
catastrophe. Those promoting net-neutrality say this is a violation of privacy, which leads us to
the arguments in support of net-neutrality.
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Like those opposed to it, patrons of net-neutrality boast numerous reasons for its
endorsement, but again, for the sake of brevity, I will enumerate only two. The first has already
been mentioned, and it is the infringement of users’ privacy. The second is similar; it is the belief
that everyone has a right to hear what others have to say.
In their first argument, those inclined to pro-neutrality say that if the government were to
censor or delete any content at all, it is a direct violation of the First Amendment, or freedom of
speech. The founding fathers believed that it is a God-given right that mankind be entitled to free
speech. If the U.S. authorities were to stamp out certain views, it is only a matter of time before
the following events hearken to the dystopian nightmare of George Orwell’s 1984. By
monitoring content on the web, the government metamorphosizes into a hypocritical monster. It
preaches freedom, all while expelling it from the people it serves. Martyrs crying out for freedom
would be unheard, as the authorities shoot them down before their mayday reaches the people.
This leads us to the second bastion the pro-neutrality soldiers defend.
They believe that if the government were to regulate the world wide web, citizens of the
U.S. would not be able to hear the voices that need to be heard. As said before, this goes hand in
hand with their first argument, that the government would suppress any ideologies they are
opposed to. In the midst of the early-2010s debate, a pro-neutrality and former head of the F.C.C.
had the following to say about government regulation in the past. “For decades, it allowed the
government to censor political speech by justifying its purpose as ‘balancing’ competing points
of view in the name of ‘diversity,’... and protecting freedom of expression. That meant the state
muted some political voices while amplifying others.” (McDowell, “Why the government should
never control the internet”) As one can see, supporters of net-neutrality fear the government’s
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capabilities to hush up free speech. They ascertain that if given further power, today’s
government would become nothing more than a cloud of censorship and indoctrination.
Internet regulation is an ongoing issue, and nearly five years later, there are still people
fighting for and against it. In their purest forms, both sides want what is best for America. On the
one hand, pro-regulation advocates wish for a more secure and unbiased country. On the other
hand, pro-neutrality activists wish for free speech and unpunished opinion. The first dreads
threats to the homeland, as well as a biased internet. The latter feels that the government would
become the threat if net-neutrality were abolished. In the end, regulation supporters were
overwhelmed by those fighting for neutrality, as well as several rallying groups on the internet,
but the battle for internet control continues to this day.
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Works Cited
McDowell, Robert M. “Why the government should never control the internet” The
Washington Post, 14 July, 2014,
ver-control-the-internet/%3foutputType=amp. Accessed 23 September, 2020
Samples, John. “Why the Government Should Not Regulate Content Moderation of
Social Media” Cato Institute, 19 April, 2019,
tion-social-media. Accessed 22, September, 2020