Why Ka­vanaugh is a dis­as­ter for tech in­dus­try and its users

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - OPINION -

Pres­i­dent Trump’s nom­i­na­tion of Brett Ka­vanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court is a dis­as­ter for the tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try and the users of tech prod­ucts.

The DC Cir­cuit Court judge’s po­si­tions on such crit­i­cal is­sues as net neu­tral­ity, pri­vacy, ex­ec­u­tive power and im­mi­gra­tion are se­ri­ous threats that could set back the tech world for decades. It’s an­other re­minder of the im­por­tance of elec­tions as the Novem­ber midterms and the 2020 pres­i­den­tial race un­fold.

Ka­vanaugh’s ju­di­cial record is an open book. His po­si­tion on the rights of in­ter­net providers such as Com­cast, AT&T and Ver­i­zon would likely give those com­pa­nies the abil­ity to change the in­ter­net as we know it. If Ka­vanaugh has his way, the In­ter­net Ser­vice Providers would be able to con­trol the in­ter­net much like they con­trol the ca­ble tele­vi­sion in­dus­try. Say good­bye to equal ac­cess to the in­ter­net. Say hello to ISPs block­ing, slow­ing down or speed­ing up on­line con­tent at will in or­der to max­i­mize prof­its.

It could have a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on the up-and-com­ing en­trepreneurs that the tech in­dus­try re­lies on to spark the next wave of in­no­va­tion.

Ka­vanaugh has ar­gued that the land­mark rules pre­serv­ing ba­sic in­ter­net free­doms put in place in 2015 are un­con­sti­tu­tional. It’s im­por­tant be­cause Trump’s FCC chair­man, Ajit Pai, re­scinded those rules soon af­ter the pres­i­dent took of­fice. State at­tor­neys gen­eral, in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s Xavier Be­cerra, are fight­ing the FCC rul­ing in court. And the Cal­i­for­nia Leg­is­la­ture is poised to put in place its own net neu­tral­ity pro­tec­tions.

In a 2017 dis­sent while serv­ing on the DC Court of Ap­peals, Ka­vanaugh wrote:

“In­ter­net Ser­vice Providers may not nec­es­sar­ily gen­er­ate much con­tent of their own, but they may de­cide what con­tent they will trans­mit, just as ca­ble op­er­a­tors de­cide what con­tent they will trans­mit. De­cid­ing whether and how to trans­mit ESPN and de­cid­ing whether and how to trans­mit ESPN.com are not mean­ing­fully dif­fer­ent for First Amend­ment pur­poses.”

It’s a to­tal re­jec­tion of the in­ter­net as a free and open mar­ket that tech leg­ends such as Vint Cerf and Tim Bern­ers-Lee fought so hard build.

Ka­vanaugh’s views on im­mi­gra­tion and pri­vacy aren’t any bet­ter.

He would likely per­mit Trump to con­tinue his hard-line agenda on im­mi­gra­tion, which runs counter to tech’s well-doc­u­mented be­lief that im­mi­grants are of­ten the suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs and en­gi­neers who play a cru­cial role in craft­ing new tech­nolo­gies. Cal­i­for­nia and the Bay Area greatly ben­e­fit from their pres­ence. Where would the tech in­dus­try be with­out the likes of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and cur­rent Google CEO Sun­dar Pichai, all of whom were born else­where?

Ka­vanaugh would also give Trump and the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency a free hand to tram­ple over the pri­vacy rights of tech­nol­ogy users with­out ob­tain­ing a search war­rant. Ka­vanaugh’s po­si­tion aligns with that of Keith Alexan­der, for­mer di­rec­tor of the NSA, whose view of the threat of ter­ror­ism gave birth to the agency’s “col­lect it all” ap­proach.

It’s un­likely that the tech in­dus­try and Democrats op­posed to Ka­vanaugh will be able to block his con­fir­ma­tion, mak­ing it all the more cru­cial that they help elect can­di­dates more friendly to the in­dus­try in Novem­ber and 2020.

— Bay Area News Group, Dig­i­tal

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