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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Ooh-la-la, the French Get (Inter)Net Neutrality Right: It’s All About the Platform Monopolies–Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter etc.

Ooh-la-la, the French Get (Inter)Net Neutrality Right: It’s All About the Platform Monopolies–Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter etc. | Gurstein's Community Informatics: "The report concludes with four general high level recommendations and a number of more specific recommendations nested within these.

1. Bolster the effectiveness of law in relation to digital platforms — in this way challenging law makers to update both their thinking and their legislation in response to these very significant changes in the overall policy landscape. In doing this they make it very clear that they consider these areas subject to national (and regional) policy considerations in direct opposition to the position of those advocating “Internet Freedom” i.e. an Internet which is beyond or outside of the realm of public policy. Within this there is the suggestion of the creation of independent assessment “auditing” agencies whose task it would be to assess neutrality issues and whose operations would build on crowd sourcing information gathering and reputation management methodologies.

2. Ensure data system effectiveness.– Interestingly, where issues of “system effectiveness” within the more traditional context of Internet Governance would be defined from the perspective either of “technical effectiveness” or “corporate functional effectiveness” in this report the meaning is very much end-user focused. How effectively does the system operate so as to maximize individual and particularly collective benefits to end users? Thus the notion of “fairness” (from the end user perspective) is central to this part of the discussion — is the manner and outcome of data use within platform-defined systems providing “fair” use and value to the end user and how can the playing field be leveled (if indeed it can) for individual user (and data provider) in managing and controlling their own data including through “transferability” and “interoperability” in relation to super rich and super powerful platform monopolies.

The report here goes into quite uncharted waters opening up a discussion of the “prescriptive” (normative) role of digital platforms and presenting a series of innovative responses to this set of observations including the need for transparency of algorithms, identification of operational practices and guidelines (they use the term “best practices”) employed within the various platforms, and suggested guidelines to ensure appropriate levels of end user, competitor and collaborator neutrality/fairness of operations.

Going even further the report identifies issues of “power” and “power imbalances” as being at the core of the relationships between the various digital platforms and those within their broader digital eco-system. The report further points out how more traditional understandings (and the associated policy responses) of such power imbalances needs to be updated in the light of the new technology functionalities and business models/strategies in the digital sphere.

3. Invest significantly in skills and knowledge to bolster competitiveness Following on from the earlier assertion of attempting to “bolster” rather than “control” the report outlines a series of research and other measures that should be undertaken to enhance the broad and in particular political understanding of the developments that are taking place in the digital sphere as a background to initiating efforts to respond to these.

4. Set the right conditions to allow alternatives to emerge  Again turning away from the dominant laissez faire Internet development model the report goes on to suggest an economic strategy way forward given that the digital world is currently dominated by a small number of platform-based monopolies based in the US and competing directly (and again based on the analysis) “unfairly” with possible competitors in France and Europe.
France and the EU must develop a strategy that will protect their social and individual values, and that will act as a springboard for the development of digital economic actors. Sovereignty–understood here as the ability to choose a development model with respect to the digital world –means giving oneself the resources to make such a choice.
It is notable that the report identifies “neutral, open platforms” and “open data” as essential for this task."

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