This week, lawmakers from across the country convene in Los Angeles for the National Conference of State Legislatures, where they will hopefully attend to threats to America’s small businesses and consumers from an onslaught of new internet sales tax obligations.
Newly emboldened state tax collectors are aggressively imposing sales tax obligations on businesses with no physical presence within their borders. Online sellers must now absorb the costs of new systems and compliance—including liability for taxes on past purchases where no tax was due at the time of the sale.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s consideration for the bench could pull Supreme Court’s conservatives back from their recent lurch into judicial activism. Nowhere else was this judicial activism by Conservative judges more apparent than in last month’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair.
This decision exposed countless small businesses to tax collectors from 46 states. In doing so, the court struck down a key Supreme Court precedent that required a business to be physically present in a state before it can be forced to collect tax there.
Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t stop there.
NetChoice submitted comments to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) regarding international internet policy priorities. We covered several topics, including ICANN and the IANA transition, online platform liability, and online privacy regulations.
First, the IANA transition enabled many hard-won bylaws improvements to hold ICANN accountable to Internet businesses and users. If our government even talks about unwinding the transition, it emboldens critics of the U.S. to push for ICANN and IANA functions to be moved to the UN system – which is about as far away from the private sector as you can go.
Second, we asked NTIA to prioritize free expression online, protected in the USA by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This law has been crucial in protecting free speech online in the age of user-generated content. Internationally, NetChoice argued that NTIA should push for Section 230-style rules to be adopted by trading partners of the United States.
Finally, NetChoice highlighted the costs to American small businesses caused by foreign privacy regulations, such as data localization laws and Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Despite these laws being foreign, they will harm American small businesses. GDPR, for example, applies to any business that processes information for a European resident – even if the resident is on U.S. soil.
We’ve heard the saber rattling from big tech critics who want to break up Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google. They claim they are helping the little guy and that they want more competition. But, new weapons these critics seek would give federal regulators unprecedented power — and undermine our democracy.
For those conservatives fully aware of how the First Amendment works and who still call for government action against Facebook, I just say: Cut it out. The solution for conservatives’ concerns about social media platforms is to vote with your feet and use a different platform. Stick to your principles and forget about the temporary insanity of arguing to expand government regulation.
Conservatives value a strict adherence to principles because of what can happen when a society drifts from its core values. It’s crucial they remember these principles in the age of the internet.
As President Ronald Reagan said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
Government regulation of free speech online would not safeguard the future of conservative speech. It would endanger it.
If a business decides to favor your point of view, you would likely see that as a good thing and spend more time on that platform. Conversely, you would be less likely to spend time on the opposing platform. But at the end of the day, businesses must be allowed to do as they see fit. And as users, if we don’t like something, we can simply go somewhere else, allowing the market to pick winners and losers.