15 Years On, President Clinton’s 5 Principles for Internet Policy Remain the Perfect Paradigm

What principles should guide Internet policy? Fifteen years ago, the Clinton Administration proposed a paradigm for how cyberspace should be governed that remains the most succinct articulation of a pro-liberty, market-oriented vision for cyberspace ever penned. It recommended that we rely on civil society, contractual negotiations, voluntary agreements, and ongoing marketplace experiments to solve information age problems. In essence, they were recommending a high-tech Hippocratic oath: First, do no harm (to the Internet).Unfortunately, most governments across the globe — including ours here in the U.S. — are increasingly taking a very different approach. While many politicians promised originally to keep their “Hands off the Net,” today it’s more like “Hands all over the Net.” It is difficult to name an area where policymakers are not currently promulgating or at least considering controls for the Internet and related digital technologies. As I have documented in this column many times, we are in the midst of a regulatory onslaught on many fronts: online free speech, kids’ safety, cybersecurity, copyright, privacy, taxation, antitrust and other forms of economic regulation.

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