January 2018 Legislative Update: Government Shutdowns, DACA, and Surveillance Reform
Issues related to the Federal government’s budget continue to dominate discussions in Washington after a three-day government shutdown. The battle between the Democrats and Republicans over the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), also known as Dreamers, defense spending, and more were resolved with a short-term spending bill. The New York Times has published a comprehensive article on the end of the shutdown, available here.
These issues have made it difficult to move any legislation, or discussion of other priorities, through Congress. Below, however, is a brief update of where legislative issue important to the Internet infrastructure industry stand.
A six-year extension of the controversial Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was recently signed by the President. Section 702 reform has long been a goal of the i2Coalition. With that said, our opinion on the FISA Authorization Act is complicated. This legislation contains some small reforms and did not make Sec. 702 permanent. Unfortunately, the reforms did not go far enough to secure the privacy of ordinary citizens. You can read our concerns with the FISA renewal here.
Since 1996, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has provided a limited form of immunity for Internet businesses like ours. Legislation pending in both the Senate and House will affect Section 230. The legislation is designed to create an environment of increased diligence regarding human trafficking problems. The legislation’s effect on Section 230 would have large implications for the entire Internet. Its impact on human trafficking has been questioned. These issues have caused businesses like ours to express deep concerns about both Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). On balance, the i2Coalition has chosen to support FOSTA, a bill in the House that seeks to avoid issues associated with SESTA.
The FCC recently took action to roll back the two-year-old Open Internet Order. This action was the source of a great deal of controversy, particularly surrounding its possible effect on net neutrality. Efforts to address this change have now moved to Capitol Hill, though litigation is expected. You can read our full take on the current Net Neutrality situation here.
The sixth round of negotiations for NAFTA 2.0 in Montreal began on Sunday the 21st. Key issues affecting Internet businesses include deadlocks on fair use, copyright enforcement, and intermediary liability. No clear path to resolution of these issues is apparent, particularly given the current administration’s focus on international trade’s effect on traditional industries like manufacturing.