The Fear-Based Campaign to Control the Net: New at Reason

AjitPublic fear is an ally of big government. When fear sets in among the populace—often with encouragement from self-interested politicians—the result is usually an expansion of governmental power and a loss of individual rights.

Politicians typically stoke fear by exaggerating some perceived threat or by inventing one out of whole cloth. They then declare that government alone can provide the answer. Take the demonization of a recent move led by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., to undo last-minute Obama-era rules from the Federal Communications Commission regulating online privacy.

The rules exempted powerful data-hogs, such as Facebook and Google, while subjecting other service providers to new and confusing rules with the potential to strangle innovation, all thanks to one agency's unauthorized power grab. Companies such as Verizon and Comcast were suddenly required to secure your consent before selling or sharing your browsing history, app usage and other private information with advertisers and other companies.

That sounds sensible, but it actually represents an abrupt departure from decades of established practice under competing regulatory regimes, writes Veronique de Rugy.

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