How Election Results Could Affect Online Rights

How Election Results Could Affect Online Rights

LOS ANGELES—As of Wednesday afternoon, the day after the 2020 presidential election, the result remains up in the air. Both Democrat Joe Biden and incumbent Republican Donald Trump still hold a chance of assuming the White House on January 20. 

But whichever way the election turns out, the state of online freedoms — an issue that is always crucial for the adult industry — will change. Here’s what the industry, and anyone reliant on an open internet, can expect when the results are finally in.

• Net neutrality. In 2017, Trump appointed former telecom industry lawyer Ajit Pai to chair the Federal Communications Commission, who promptly made it his top priority to repeal the 2015 net neutrality rules put in place by the FCC under the Barack Obama administration. He succeeded in what, at least potentially, could prove a serious setback for the online adult industry, as AVN reported at the time

A Trump win in the election effectively kills any chance of reinstating net neutrality. In fact, his latest nominee to sit on the FCC board, Nathan Simington, is another former telecommunications industry corporate lawyer. 

But Biden appears likely to replace Pai with a Democrat who favors net neutrality, and with a 3-2 Democratic majority on the FCC board under a Biden presidency, the net neutrality rules likely would be reinstated. Biden says that he was “outraged” when the Obama-era rules were eliminated by Pai’s FCC.

• Section 230. The 1996 law widely known as the “First Amendment of the Internet” has come under attack this year from both Democrats and Republicans, and both Biden and Trump have called for the law to be repealed. Trump has already put a process in motion to roll back the law — which shields online platforms from legal liability for user posts — instructing the FCC to “review” Section 230. 

But according to TechDirt columnist Berin Szoka, full repeal of Section 230 appears unlikely no matter who becomes the next president. But Biden has pledged to “hold social media companies accountable for knowingly platforming falsehoods,” which would require some sort of modifications to the 24-year-old law.

• Online Privacy. According to Szoka, expect some form of national legislation addressing privacy issues — such as how big tech companies use and sell user data — no matter how the cliffhanger 2020 presidential election turns out. California passed its own, strict privacy law last year, and Republicans are eager to override any state privacy laws with their own national legislation. 

“But Democrats have little political incentive to negotiate for any legislation that would displace California’s approach,” if Trump remains president, Szoka wrote.

Under a Biden presidency, however, “they’ll have no excuse for not finally passing the comprehensive baseline privacy legislation they’ve talked about for years,” the TechDirt columnist wrote. “Passing a federal law, even if it overlaps significantly with California’s, would allow the Administration to take credit for addressing the top complaint about ‘Big Tech.’ Not bigness per se, but a perceived lack of control over data collection.”

Photos by the White House / Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

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