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MPAA to Trump Administration: Increasingly Toxic Edge Needs Minding

Movie studios are telling the White House, or at least its chief communications policy arm, that it needs to start rethinking the government's hands-off approach to edge providers given the "toxic" online environment and the lack of accountability of online platforms, signaling not stepping in could threaten an open internet.

That hands-on alternative could be as little as a firm push in the right direction, or more, they advise, but say something has to change.

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That came in comments from the Motion Picture Association of America to the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, which sought recommendations on its "international Internet policy priorities for 2018 and beyond."

"Now that the internet has reached maturity, the assumptions underlying U.S. policy—1) that in order to flourish, online platforms need to be free from the ordinary obligations borne by most businesses, and 2) that online platforms will have natural incentives to diligently and effectively curtail abuse of their services voluntarily-are rightfully coming into question," said the MPAA.

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With the advent of "real" fake news--including Russian efforts to sew dissension and affect U.S. elections, those online platforms have begun to lose their "garage start-up" shield from Washington scrutiny, particularly from Democrats.

The MPAA suggested that such a hands-off approach might itself threaten an open and interoperable internet and the free flow of information, though it said that the government fostering more edge accountability might be sufficient, and that it was not advocating for any particularly policy or, necessarily, for regulation.

While it threw in the qualifier that "it may be that" such is the case, MPAA followed that with a parade of horribles that may result in not regulating the edge, including that it could "undermine trust in the internet as a platform; harm “the public welfare, national security, and competitiveness of the United States”; and hinder “the rapid technological advances being made in the telecommunications and information fields."

MPAA's bottom line: "The status quo is not working."

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.