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 D.C. 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 It's important because Trump's FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, rescinded those rules soon after the president took office.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.
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