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While many of us were busy settling into the fall schedule, The Internet Association hit the ground running with its inaugural Internet Policy Symposium co-hosted by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics (IOP) and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.  In a two-day event held at the Harvard IOP September 4 and 5, we brought together Administration representatives, local policymakers, academics, media, and industry reps to talk all things Internet policy related.  

Bummed you missed it? No worries, we’ve got you covered.  Here’s what you should know:

  1. Kicking Things Off

Maggie Williams, former White House Senior Advisor, and the newly appointed Director of the Institute of Politics, kicked things off with opening remarks and set the tone for the in-depth discussion of “complex” and myriad policy issues.  Michael Beckerman, President & CEO of The Internet Association, followed Smith and explained why the conference came at a timely inflection point for the industry.


  1. To Governments, With Love: Try to Stay Out of the Way (But Do Take Care of the Trolls)

During the Thursday night forum discussion, Harvard’s Archon Fung moderated a discussion on how governments affect the Internet entrepreneur. Featured panelists were Stephen Kaufer, TripAdvisor Founder & CEO, and Harvard’s Professor Susan Crawford.  Kaufer highlighted the importance of governments not getting in the way of innovation and gave a nod to patent reform efforts back in D.C. to tackle the troll issue; something he described as an entry barrier for small and innovative start ups with neither the time no resources to fight patent litigation.


  1. So, How Do I Become the Next Zuck?

According to Kaufer,  the Internet is your oyster: just (1) surf the web, learn, and come up with an idea (2) be persistent, and (3) be ready to fail and to change your approach.  Thanks to the Internet, it really is that easy!


  1. “Roundtables That Have Right Angles…”

Harvard Professor Jonathan Zittrain teed the second day’s “roundtable” sessions perfectly.  Following the day’s welcome remarks from Beckerman, Zittrain moderated the first policy roundtable discussion on policy issues including intermediary liability, privacy (generally), the right to be forgotten (specifically), net neutrality, and government surveillance.  


  1. Current U.S. policy is good for the Internet …

First, do no harm: we’re looking at you Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and Section 512 of the DMCA. Though perhaps intended by Congress to limit speech, Section 230 ended up being a critical law for promoting free speech and openness online. Further, industry agreed – there’s no reason to reopen the DMCA – it’s working just fine.


  1. Rough Waters Internationally …

While laws and policies on intermediary liability support the Internet industry in the U.S., the same can’t be said on a global scale.  Things are a bit more unsettled, and the lack of legal and regulatory certainty for companies yields a less than friendly environment for industry.  Post the Arab Spring uprising, there’s a trend with governments’ abroad in implementing policies to restrict users’ online communication regarding social unrest.


  1. Local Governments Jumping on the Internet Bandwagon …

For the public good.  Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Chief Information Office for the City of Boston, explained that many municipalities are transitioning from “being reflexively” against new technologies and using Big Data to develop policies to support technologies that meet public needs.


  1. Nothing to Do With Us.

Sharing economy companies like AirBnb, Lyft, and Uber are consistently facing regulations that generally have nothing to do with the Internet (e.g., land use).  To combat the hurdles faced by local regulations and entrenched interests, these companies strive to work collaboratively with cities, mayors, local government officials, etc. in order to offer and expand their services to users.   


Click here to view all the photos from the event. Or, you can watch video footage of each discussion. Click here for the forum: Innovation In Action: How Government Policies Affect the Internet Entrepreneur, here for the roundtable: Will Governments Break the Internet? and here for the final roundtable: Your Next Big Startup Idea: Why Internet Policy Matters.