My 11 Favorite Internet Policy Essays of 2013 (+ Worst Essay of the Year)

by on December 11, 2013 · 5 comments

Here are a few Internet policy essays I collected over the past year which I thought were particularly well done and worth highlighting once more. They are listed in chronological order:

  • L. Gordon Crovitz – “Silicon Valley’s ‘Suicide Impulse,'” Wall Street Journal, January 28. (“It’s a measure of how far Silicon Valley has strayed from its entrepreneurial roots that a top regulator is calling on technology companies to do less lobbying and more competing,” Crovitz argued. “Rather than lobby government to go after one another, Silicon Valley lobbyists should unite to go after overreaching government. Instead of the “suicide impulse” of lobbying for more regulation, Silicon Valley should seek deregulation and a long-overdue freedom to return to its entrepreneurial roots.”)
  • John Gruber – “Open and Shut,Daring Fireball, March 1. (An absolutely brutal evisceration of Tim Wu’s recent work.)
  • R. U. Sirius – “Cypherpunk Rising: WikiLeaks, Encryption, and the Coming Surveillance Dystopia,” The Verge, March 7.
  • Julian Sanchez – “A Reply to Epstein & Pilon on NSA’s Metadata Program,Cato at Liberty, June 16. (A meticulous point-by-point takedown of an essay by Roger Pilon & Richard Epstein defending NSA’s online surveillance tactics.)
  • Ethan Zuckerman – “Is Cybertopianism Really Such a Bad Thing?” Slate, June 17 (A “defense of believing that technology can do good.”)

  • Jill Lepore – “The Prism: Privacy in an Age of Publicity,” New Yorker, June 24. (An examination of the evolution of privacy norms over the past 150 years. Lepore argued that “As a matter of historical analysis, the relationship between secrecy and privacy can be stated in an axiom: the defense of privacy follows, and never precedes, the emergence of new technologies for the exposure of secrets. In other words, the case for privacy always comes too late. The horse is out of the barn.”)
  • Michael Nelson – ” Six Myths of Innovation Policy,” The European Institute Blog, July 2013. (An interesting examination of some myths about innovation policy with a discussion about how it impacts policy in both U.S. and E.U.)
  • Daniel O’Connor – “Rent Seeking and the Internet Economy (Part 1): Why is the Internet So Frequently the Target of Rent Seekers?” DisCo blog, August 15. (Nice overview of what rent-seeking is and why it is increasing in the tech economy.)
  • Bruce Schneier – “Our Decreasing Tolerance To Risk,” Forbes, August 23. (Good exploration of the psychology of risk by one of the great experts on the topic. It’s not strictly about information technology policy, but it has profound ramifications for it. He notes: “We need to relearn how to recognize the trade-offs that come from risk management, especially risk from our fellow human beings.  We need to relearn how to accept risk, and even embrace it, as essential to human progress and our free society.  The more we expect technology to protect us from people in the same way it protects us from nature, the more we will sacrifice the very values of our society in futile attempts to achieve this security.”)
  • Clive Thompson – “Googling Yourself Takes on a Whole New Meaning,” New York Times Magazine, August 30, 2013. (I’d be hard-pressed to find a more gifted and insightful technology pundit than Clive Thompson and he delivers yet again in this interesting piece. My review of his excellent new book was published by Reason. Needless to say, I loved it.)
  • Eli Noam – “Towards the Federated Internet,” InterMEDIA, Autumn 2013. (A provocative essay advocating for an “internet of internets” to replace the current unified global Internet. Noam argues that the time has come to abandon our slavish allegiance to the dream of a single, uniform global network and “we should instead think about a system of federated internets working together in some form of technological coexistence of interoperability.”)

And my vote for worst Internet policy essay of the year goes to Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson for his astonishing essay, “Beware the Internet and the Danger of Cyberattacks,” in which he says, “If I could, I would repeal the Internet. It is the technological marvel of the age, but it is not — as most people imagine — a symbol of progress. Just the opposite. We would be better off without it.”  Where does one even begin with such logic?!  Well, I responded here.  [A close runner-up for the Worst of Year prize would be this essay by Benjamin Kunkel, “Socialize Social Media! A Manifesto.” But it’s so hard to take that essay seriously that it should probably just be disqualified from the competition entirely.]

Anyway, let me know some of your favorite (or even least favorite) Net policy essays of 2013. (And yes, I fully expect some of you to list some of my essays as candidates for Worst of Year honors!)

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