I was fortunate enough to participate in some of the discussions that led to the creation of this international treaty. In those remote days when the world had leaders who cared more about the impact of their decisions on their people than on how they looked in selfies the treaty was seen as a means to even the playing field for all countries. According to these leadership GATS was essential to progress because services needed to be affordable; accessible and universal for the world economy to reach new development dimensions. The consequence of this approach was the fall of telecom monopolies all over the world except in die hard monopolist countries like Spain, Russia; North Korea, Italy and most African nations.
When President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act on Feb. 8, 1996, the US led nations liberating telecommunications services to promote competition. The act brought down regulatory barriers while opening telephone services and cable television to competition. But that was an instant in the long durée of economic history. Soon along came the best lobbyists in D.C. to redress the situation As a result from 9,000 IPS that the country had in 2000, only 2,500 are now left. Meanwhile tech companies that promoted free market economics in cyber space soon realized that it is best to create monopolies from which to extract rent through regulation and along came section 230 a piece of internet legislation included in the Internet Decency Act of 1996.
Section 230 provides internet companies immunity from civil liabilities for information service providers that remove or restrict content from their services they deem “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected”, as long as this is done in good faith. By these means internet companies have become a power on their own that are beginning to threaten the first amendment.
The power conferred to internet companies by section 230 is such that two persons as different in political views, policy stands; character and demeanor as Donald Trump and Joseph Biden had both raised the issue to their respective parties of the need to amend or remove section 230 altogether. Mr Trump has been the first known casualty to this power. But there are hundreds of thousands of individuals and companies also censored on account of their stand vis-à-vis the interests of internet companies. The time seems to have come to hold internet companies accountable for their restrictions to free speech. Because in the country of freedom there cannot be a bigger power than the Constitution.