Congressional Error Harms Consumer Choice

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Imagine an America where slanderous behaviors and torturous interference is protected by law.

I’ve previously written about a federal case originally filed in the Southern District of New York by Enigma Software Group USA, LLC vs. Malwarebytes, Inc. (case 1:16-cv-07885), in which Enigma Software contends that Malwarebytes has intentionally and maliciously harmed it through unfair, predatory business practices.

The case was centered around an interpretation of the Communications Decency Act (CDA § 230(c)(2), entitled “Protection for ‘Good Samaritan’ blocking and screening of offensive material). In the original case, the court decided that “Good Faith” was not a requirement for businesses offering similar products and services to restrict and circumvent a consumer’s access to its competitors.

Although the case went in the favor of Malwarebytes, an appeal was filed in the 9th Circuit Court. Depending on the outcome of the appeal consumer advocates should fear the possible ramifications should this statute continue to be interpreted this way.

Imagine only having one choice for video viewing online? Let’s say for example, you currently have a HULU account but some of your favorite programs are only available on Netflix. Under this statute, HULU could maliciously disable the Netflix app on your device to prevent you from using that service that may have paid for with protection under the law!

Let’s now change scenarios and imagine that you are unfortunately in bad health and would like to download one of the many health and fitness apps that are currently available on Google Play, or the iTunes or Android markets. Although you would like to collect as much information as you possibly can, and would most likely want to test drive the numerous apps available, the first app you download could legally disable all subsequent downloads and possibly prevent you from obtaining life saving information!

With the recent vote to repeal Net Neutrality, the possible actions that would be protected under CDA only become more heinous. Imagine a company like Google or Yahoo deciding that all right-wing themed political sites should be removed from their search engines entirely? How would that affect the 2018 midterm elections? Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump benefitted immensely from a free and fair internet as they ascended to their respective presidencies.

The potential tactics that can be utilized because of this unfortunate set of circumstances can be applied, with no reasonable limitation, by any company attempting to gain an unethical edge over their competition. In today’s digital world, severe limitations in our choices would diminish user experience, and potentially compromise our online safety and security.

The case that exposed this flaw in legislation was fought between two competing anti-malware providers. The potential for an independent consumer or business to be exposed to online infections or cyberespionage would increase exponentially if companies can legally deactivate their competitor’s products.

Although the Communications Decency Act was written to restrict lewd content on the internet, it seems that it sadly has found a calamitous and insidious consequence. Stay tuned.

Originally published by Newsmax.

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