Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Posted by D. Daniel Sokol
Marcelo Thompson, The University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Law; Law and Technology Centre is In Search of Alterity: On Google, Neutrality, and Otherness.
ABSTRACT: Discourses on network neutrality have often, if not always, been introduced without any more in-depth evaluation of their normative bearings. This article pursues such an evaluative approach against a specific empirical backdrop. It inquires into that which has been the archetypal voice in network neutrality discourses: Google’s. In doing so, the article reveals as much about Google’s views on network neutrality as it does about the normative context and regulatory implications of Google’s own activities. Drawing on policy propositions formally put forward by Google, the article demonstrates that Google’s support for network neutrality relates to a broader normative culture that Google’s propositions advance. Such is a culture in which Google’s possibilities of reasoning and acting upon its reasons assume a degree of priority in relation to those of other actors in the information environment. The article demonstrates that the method of such a culture is the nullification, neutralization of equal possibilities of reasoning and action by other actors but Google. It explains the incoherence of Google’s overall approach and refutes the idea that other actors – here ISPs – should be treated more detrimentally than Google due to their being an Internet bottleneck in a way that Google arguably is not. Discussing the normative contours of Google’s influence, the article points at the limitations of existing theories about the regulation of “search” and suggests an alternative theoretical model that focuses on search from a broader perspective within the regulation of the information environment. In the model proposed, neutrality does not play any role – reason and alterity do.