October 30 - regulate-a-tech

TLDR (as I know you never do): Tomorrow 6PM at BBB B101 we will be joined by Open Tech Club to discuss the regulation of technology, in the backdrop of four tech regulation bills currently making the rounds in the US senate. Please join us for Regulate-a-tech, the game™ : tell us everything they did wrong, and how YOU would do better. If you can convince more than half of the attendance, we’ll pass your amendment. ~~~The way that new laws and regulations (traditionally) come about (in America especially) is:
i) In the beginning, everyone is free to do anything in a certain domain
ii) Bad things happen because of something people did in that domain
iii) People get mad
iv) Bad things continue to happen
v) Eventually a bad enough thing happens, or enough bad things happen, that the government steps in specifies what people can do in that domain, and how.
vi) Go back to (i) and iterate for ever finer sub-domains
vii) As t→∞ , or until the government collapses or the sun explodes, there’s eventually so much accumulated regulation that you can’t do anything anymore, since most laws, like diamonds, taxes, death and the blockchain, are forever.
Eventually people get used to them and just consider it to be a fact of life. For example, did you know what:Prior to 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, the labeling and sale of food and especially drugs were virtually unregulated, leading to abundant shady practices and general misleading of consumers. Together with a series of extensions and other laws, this lead to the creation of the Food and Drug Administration and 1927.Jaywalking only became a crime after cars became abundant and people started getting run over.In more recent times, the pattern continues. The trigger for a new wave of regulations is often a new technology that enables new ways to do bad things. For example:Model airplanes, gas balloons and other “drones” have been around for over a century, but it was only when quad-copters became immensely popular, less than 10 years ago, that the FAA got tough and heavily regulated their useMoney, banks, stocks and financial things have been regulated since the dawn of time, and get regulated again every time they lead to a new crisis. A few years ago people realized that appending the words “blockchain” and “crypto” to their financial instruments was an excellent excuse to ignore regulations. After a sufficient amount of fraud and scams, the regulators stepped in, fined a bunch of people, and issued guidelines for using the word blockchain. Back when the cyberspace was invented, you could do anything. Then hacking, spam, and evil corporations spying on you and being evil happened, and they were all regulated. Most notable is the European General Data Protection Regulation dictating how companies should deal with personal data, but this is a fad everywhere. For example, the California Consumer Privacy Act deals with many of the same issues, and there’s even a new law about bots. Stay tuned for the next chapters worldwide.For billions of years, nobody cared about how natural selection, transposons and horizontal gene transfer affected the DNA of living things. It was only when humans started doing much of the same things with new tools that people got worried about genetically modified crops, mosquitoes, and crispier babies (albeit KFC is looking into crispier chickens). But! Not all laws about technology are about trying to keep terrible things from happening! Every now and again, governments try to encourage good deeds with technology! This can be done not only by directly leveraging technology to improve government services, but also by clarifying or creating a regulatory framework so that potential good faith entrepreneurs are not afraid of getting smacked by the government for moving fast and breaking things. For example:The government of Singapore developed a blockchain based platform for issuing and validating academic certificates.The California government has passed bills defining blockchain technology and allowing companies to use it for corporate records.The government of Estonia offers almost all of it’s’ services online, including voting. Things are happening in America.
Now! The government of the United States of America got rattled up by an instance of commonplace data shenanigans that received particularly sustained media coverage. In its wake, politicians across the board were left convinced that something had to be done, even if they had no clue what, since the overwhelming majority has a law/policy/business/education background. See pages 3-5 of this report, it is quite enlightening. Did you know that only 21/435 representatives and 4/100 senators have a"doctoral degree or so", and almost all of them are medical degrees? The list of US politicians with a research doctorate is surprisingly sparse.
Anyhow, surprisingly someone did come around and proposed something. Last year this US senator guy (or most likely someone in his office) wrote a whitepaper/poorly formatted college essay outlining 20 points for possible tech regulation. Even more surprisingly, since then no less than FOUR bills have been proposed dealing with some of the topics, which I have boldened below. Duty to clearly and conspicuously label bots
Duty to determine the origin of posts and/or accountsDuty to identify inauthentic accountsMake platforms liable for state-law torts (defamation, false light, public disclosure of private facts) for failure to take down deep fake or other manipulated audio/video contentPublic Interest Data Access BillRequire Interagency Task Force for Countering Asymmetric Threats to Democratic InstitutionsDisclosure Requirements for Online Political AdvertisementsPublic Initiative for Media LiteracyIncreasing Deterrence Against Foreign ManipulationInformation fiduciaryPrivacy rulemaking authority at FTCComprehensive (GDPR-like) data protection legislation1st Party Consent for Data CollectionStatutory determination that so-called ‘dark patterns’ are unfair and deceptive trade practicesAlgorithmic auditability/fairnessData Transparency BillData Portability BillInteroperabilityOpening federal datasets to university researchers and qualified small businesses/startupsEssential Facilities DeterminationsA summary of each bill is available at the Sovereignty Forums, but for your convenience I make available below the one line summary and a link to the original bill text. They are actually surprisingly short and easy to read, I suggest you take a look!
S.2658 - ACCESS Act of 2019 - Introduced 2019-10-22: A bill to promote competition and reduce consumer switching costs in the provision of online communications services.

S.1951 - DASHBOARD act - Introduced 2019-06-25: To require the Securities and Exchange Commission to promulgate regulations relating to the disclosure of certain commercial data, and for other purposes.

S.1578 - Do Not Track Act - Introduced 2019-05-21: To protect the privacy of internet users through the establishment of a national Do Not Track system, and for other purposes.

S.1084 - DETOUR Act - Introduced 2019-04-09: To prohibit the usage of exploitative and deceptive practices by large online operators and to promote consumer welfare in the use of behavioral research by such providers.

As you know, when America does a thing, the free world follow. And given the nature of the cyberspace, the impact of these bills is likely to be global and immediate. So what they say, and how they say it matters even (especially?) if all you care about is living in your mother’s basement surfing the internet. Think about it, and come tell us how you’d do better. Maybe, just maybe, it could make a difference. See you at BBB B101, tomorrow at 6PM!CheersEduardo
PS: Remember that time when we went to the NoHo-Pasadena Bus Rapid Transit meeting and we heard Michael say sensible things about Chinese food and Dylan (literally) talk about cosmic alignment of the route to a packed house? Valentine has finally gotten around to processing the pictures he took back then, and I put them on the Sovereignty forum thread here.

PSS: Given that this is a special meeting, bullshit time might be reduced. In order to spare you and everyone else, here’s what I have to say this week: Argentina has fallen. To populism. Again. I’m crying for you, Argentina.