Experts Say Technology Consumers Play Central Role in Internet Governance

(Photo by Alex Howard @digiphile)

This morning, thought leaders in the technology policy space gathered at the Brookings Institution for several panels related to the topic of Internet Policymaking.  As new Internet policy issues arise, most of which were not considered when our current communications laws were created, we face a challenge of meeting governance demands.   Who is best suited to meet those demands?  Panelists seemed to agree that consumers play a central role.

Participants in the conversation “Users As Regulators: The Role of Transparency and Crowd Sourcing As A Form of Oversight” included:

  • Moderator: Phil Weiser, Senior Advisor to the Director for Technology and Innovation, National Economic Council, The White House
  • Mark Cooper, Research Director, Consumer Federation of America
  • Cynthia Estlund, Catherine A. Rein Professor of Law, New York University School of Law
  • Kathy Brown, Senior Vice President, Public Policy Development and Corporate Responsibility, Verizon

Consumer advocate Mark Cooper believes that crowdsourcing for policing can work if the information is accurate and actionable.  Acknowledging the complexity of the issues, he suggested that the era of writing detailed rules is over, which Kathy Brown of Verizon quickly agreed.  Similarly, Brown advocated that old style regulation won’t work in today’s Internet ecosystem and for self-regulation through transparency to reach a greater democracy.  “We agree that the consumer is central.  The question is, what role?”  Academic voice Estlund took the concept even further, noting that transparency is key not just for Internet customers, but for all citizens.

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