Backward Laws: When Regulations Can’t Keep Up with Technology
Not everyone can be expected to be technically literate. There are generations alive today who have grown up without all the digital devices that surround us. They will never fully understand the inner workings of social media, smartphone apps. And such, and it would be wrong to expect them to.
This would not be a problem. But the generations whose most advanced technology growing up was a black-and-white TV. It is a generation sitting in the legislative bodies of most countries today. And while they are definitely good at their jobs. They are simply lacking the necessary knowledge to fully grasp the digital world. This gives birth to laws that handle innovative. Disruptive technologies with a certain gawkiness – if not plain wrong.
One of the best examples of legislation failing to keep up is iGaming. The iGaming industry has been around for decades. Embraced in some countries, banned in others and regulated in a totally inefficient way in some. Let’s take a look at the online gambling laws in Canada, for example – here, gambling (and online gambling) is a state monopoly. Of course, the state-owned outlets are far behind their international competitors when it comes to game variety, bonuses, and the experience they offer their players.
Still, instead of contemplating opening up their markets to the competition, the Canadian legislators attempted to simply block access to offshore gaming outlets at an ISP level. This, of course, has prompted serious upheaval among scholars and various organizations. So these plans were dropped. But no regulation that would satisfy everyone has been enacted in Canada to this day.
Uber came up with an innovative approach to public transport. An app through which people could “hail” not a cab, not a rental, not a limo with a chauffeur. But an everyday human with an everyday car. The idea was pretty disruptive at the time – and it still is today.
Legislators around the world are trying to reach an agreement not only on the legal status of the service itself (which is based in the US but is active in several countries) but the legal status of the drivers themselves. Do they require a license and accreditation? Are the drivers employees of the company or individual entrepreneurs? And how should they pay taxes on their revenues?
Ride-hailing services – transportation network companies or TNCs in “legalese” – are legal and regulated in some countries, and illegal in others.
Finally, let’s take a brief look at something that has a massive influence on the life we live today: social media. The Cambridge Analytica scandal that involved Facebook last year has shed a bit of light on how the data we share on social networks can and will be used against us. A few well-targeted ads are said to have influenced the outcome of elections in several countries (and we probably don’t know the half of it).
As the reaction of the senators during Mark Zuckerberg’s hearing has revealed, the people that should regulate it have no idea about how social networks work – and neither does Zuckerberg himself. Zuck has an excuse, though – he has people on his payroll that do. But how can you expect people without the necessary background to regulate something as complex as a social network with more than 2 billion users from all over the world?