With issues like net neutrality and digital news curation in headlines every day, we’re seeing the effects of the growing role that technology has in our lives more than ever. From how we educate our children about new tools to how we decide to regulate internet service providers, we have a set of vitally important questions in front of us. To answer these questions, we’ll need a meeting of the minds—one that brings together the perspectives of government officials, business owners, developers, and citizens from all over the world. This global discussion is the only way we’ll progress toward appropriate solutions and the right balance in refocusing technology on humans. Here are four trends that will shape that discussion next year and beyond:
Net neutrality and the rise of technology populism
We haven’t seen major changes to internet regulation since 1996, when Congress passed legislation that sought to protect infant internet service providers from perceived risks to a “free internet” like the Communications Decency Act. Twenty years later, we’re seeing—and will continue to see—the pendulum shift from internet company exceptionalism and protectionism to greater control and regulation. In 2017, we saw massive changes to net neutrality, service provider immunities, and increased scrutiny on security and privacy issues. Next year, approximately four billion people will be internet users, many of them so-called “digital natives”, with different and evolving expectations for their online personhood. We should expect digital populism to gain steam alongside traditional party populism and to become a standard feature of mainstream politics, reflecting a broader cultural rise in consumer awareness regarding data privacy, security, and the ubiquitous role of technology in our day-to-day lives.
A new world of platform governance
With a greater push for regulation and increased awareness among consumers about how their data is used, we can expect to see a rise in policy standardization and transparency in how platforms govern themselves and their users. This shift is vital if internet service providers hope to continue to “regulate themselves.” Imagine a world in which there are standard policies companies could
redline diff against. Now imagine as-yet-to-be-founded companies that could displace primary movers in search, social networking, or online retail spaces based on their more consumer-friendly data collection, security, or privacy practices.
Tech policy goes global
Regulators in Europe, China, and elsewhere are increasingly setting the agenda on issues ranging from data protection to cybersecurity and AI. Their decisions will set the tone on where—and how quickly—the U.S. will net out on flipping traditional dynamics on their head. These are some of the most important topics of our time, and we have a moral imperative to keep fighting for net neutrality and other policies that keep the internet open to innovation and competition. The consequences of not doing so could be devastating to the developer ecosystem.
Open source goes local
Expect to see major open source initiatives at the city and municipal level. Not only is this essential to government transparency, but it’s also an important way to recruit engineering talent, which has historically been challenging for local government organizations. This trend has been building for years, especially in Europe, and through collaborations like Code for America. In 2017, the centrality of mayors as leaders for the common good was recognized. In 2018, tech policy will be firmly added to their portfolios. Additionally, look for an increase in public sector investment to incentivize more people to become developers.
However these conversations evolve, we’ll be following along closely and speaking up when they affect our community.
Today is the second Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality this year, and there’s never been a more important time to show your support. GitHub is joining a number of companies, digital rights groups, and nonprofits to continue the fight for net neutrality rules and the rights of internet users around the world. This coordinated effort comes just a couple of days before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to vote on Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal that will likely end a free and open internet for all of us.
We began this week observing that just last year, the United Nation’s Human Rights Council recognized internet access as integral to promoting human rights and called on governments to promote digital literacy, facilitate access, and address digital divides.
Unfortunately, Pai’s proposal will reverse this progress—especially efforts to increase access and decrease divides—for developers and every internet user.
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn put it best when she explained that the proposal “threatens innovation at the edge, by allowing broadband providers to charge tolls to access their customers.” While concerns may center on how this affects the sites we rely on daily for searching and streaming, these changes will likely have a much greater impact on software entrepreneurs who are rewriting the way we communicate and get work done right now. The FCC is not considering the developers and small startups that don’t have access to the resources that bigger companies have.
In addition to charging internet users extra fees, broadband providers would be able to use preferential treatment for their own content. Even if developers and startups manage to pay the fees, internet providers could limit or block those services in favor of their own—robbing internet users of newer, more innovative ones.
As EveryoneOn, a U.S. nonprofit committed to creating social and economic opportunity by getting people online, notes “Lack of access to digital opportunity is particularly harmful today because of the role that digital technology plays in everyday tasks.” Its CEO Chike Aguh goes on to explain how net neutrality will have a broader economic impact: “90 percent of people in the United States who have looked for a new job in the last two years used the internet to research jobs, and 84 percent have applied to a job online.” EveryoneOn estimates that the internet results in more than $2 million in additional lifetime earnings for individuals with access.
As the U.S. prepares for another round of net neutrality debates, governing bodies in regions like India and the European Union have come out in support of net neutrality regulations. For instance, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released its recommendations on net neutrality this past November. These recommendations stem from TRAI’s acceptance that strong principles of non-discriminatory access will promote future growth and innovation of “internet infrastructure and its applications, content, and services.”
Additionally, the European Union has continued to evangelize its position on net neutrality. Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications Chair, Sebastien Soriano, explained in a recent speech that Europe’s position on net neutrality is established and drew a distinction between Europe and the U.S. by stating, “Even in the U.S., a pioneer country in this area, the issue remains unresolved.”
In jurisdictions that haven’t made a firm commitment to net neutrality, the change in U.S. policy could be used as justification for closed internet policy.
Net neutrality affects everyone, and we only have two more days to “Break the internet”, and let Congress know how we feel.
If you’re not in the U.S., you can still help by spreading the word, and learning about open internet policies in your country.
Two years ago, we breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed the Open Internet Order—regulations allowing people to freely access and interact with information online, and protecting them from potential discriminatory practices by internet service providers.
In 2016, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, also known as the D.C. Circuit, gave us additional comfort when it upheld the regulations despite a challenge from the telecommunications industry.
Unfortunately, things change. Now an effort to repeal the order is underway, and we’re asking our community to once again help us protect net neutrality and rally behind a free and open internet.
Earlier this year, FCC chairperson Ajit Pai expressed his intentions to get rid of the 2015 order. We wrote about this in July and joined more than one thousand companies urging the commissioner to reconsider. Despite widespread outcry from individuals and organizations alike, last week Pai made good on his intentions and released his proposal.
In response, Pai’s colleague Commissioner Mignon Clyburn released a fact sheet explaining the proposal while Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel penned an op-ed urging the public to “make a ruckus” and essentially save the FCC from itself.
Net neutrality is an issue that transcends party lines. A recent Morning Consult and Politico Poll indicated that Republican and Democratic support for net neutrality rules is essentially the same, differing only by a couple of percentage points.
Net neutrality gives developers the freedom to build and ship software without being potentially blocked, throttled, or tolled by internet service providers. The result has been vast opportunity for developers. It’s crucial that public policy support expands the opportunity to participate in the software revolution. Undermining net neutrality at a time of concern about consolidation and inequality is precisely the wrong move—directly harmful to developers’ ability to launch new products and eroding trust that the internet is a force for innovation and opportunity.
On December 14, the FCC will vote on Pai’s proposal—and it’s expected to pass. Supporters of net neutrality are already gearing up for another court battle. In the meantime, the U.S. Congress could attempt a legislative fix.
As this discussion evolves and net neutrality is continuously challenged, it’s important that your congressperson knows where you stand. Let them know that you’re energized and that you continue to stand in solidarity with the majority of people who support robust, net neutrality protection.
Call your U.S. congressperson today and urge them to oppose efforts to roll back net neutrality.
This month, GitHub penned a letter urging the United States Senate and House of Representatives to support open source provisions in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets policies for the Department of Defense (DoD) budget. As the Senate and House move towards agreement on the final NDAA bill, we encourage both chambers to maintain the Senate’s open source provisions, which will ultimately benefit Americans and the global community.
Sponsored by Senators from both the Republican and Democratic parties, Mike Rounds and Elizabeth Warren, the provisions show that open source is a bipartisan issue. Section 886 would require unclassified, non-defense software that is custom developed for the DoD to be open source unless otherwise specified.
Makes sense, right? After all, DoD has a long hisory of using and creating open source software, and adopting policies to support these practices. Earlier this year, the DoD debuted Code.mil, which leverages open source to engage the software community and modernize software practices at the agency. DoD is joined by a growing list of U.S. federal agencies adopting open source, including the National Security Agency and National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Our 2017 Octoverse report shows how open source is core infrastructure embraced by individual developers, startups, and the most valuable companies in the world, allowing all to innovate faster, more efficiently, and more securely.
Likewise, government engagement with open source strengthens economic competitiveness, national security, promotes new ideas and technology, and saves taxpayers’ money. To learn more about how the government can benefit from open source, check out our letter!
Earlier this month, we asked for your feedback on a new set of changes to our Terms of Service and Corporate Terms of Service. You responded overwhelmingly! Thank you so much to everyone who commented and opened issues or pull requests. The Terms of Service that you helped us create is now in effect.
During this comment period, you opened 45 issues and 17 pull requests, helping us fine tune and clarify a bunch of our policies. The updates we made based on your feedback are documented in the “Community Feedback” section below.
In our last blog post, we told you about the changes we were making to our Terms of Service, Corporate Terms of Service, Business Plan Addendum, and Amendment to GitHub Terms of Service Applicable to U.S. Federal Government Users. We kept those changes, but some of the language may have been tweaked, based on your feedback.
Community Feedback: Thanks to your feedback, we made a number of changes to the terms, for example:
We also received some great ideas that we couldn’t implement in this comment period. We expect to address those them in the next few months.
The new Terms of Service are in effect as of August 7. You can accept them by continuing to use GitHub. Thank you again, you’ve helped us make our Terms better. Please let us know if you have questions about the new Terms or if you would like to contribute to our policies.