Shadow Regulations are voluntary agreements between companies (sometimes described as codes, principles, standards, or guidelines) to regulate your use of the Internet, often without your knowledge.
Shadow Regulation has become increasingly popular after the monumental failure of restrictive Internet laws such as ACTA, SOPA and PIPA. This is because Shadow Regulation can involve restrictions that are as effective as any law, but without the need for approval by a court or parliament. Indeed, sometimes Shadow Regulation is even initiated by government officials, who offer companies the Hobson’s choice of coming up with a “voluntary” solution, or submitting to government regulation.
How Big Pharma’s Shadow Regulation Censors the Internet
This particular Shadow Regulation network contains a confusing web of similar-sounding organizations with overlapping memberships, such as the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) and the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP). In simple terms the former is comprised mostly of the pharmaceutical industry, whereas the latter pulls in its partners such as Internet platforms (Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!), payment processors (PayPal, Mastercard, and American Express), delivery providers (UPS), and domain name companies (GoDaddy and Rightside). A third key player is LegitScript, which was instrumental in the formation of both ASOP and CSIP, and carries out most of the operational level arrangements that are agreed at a level of principle by those organizations. Internet users are not represented at board level in either ASOP, CSIP, or LegitScript.
A hallmark of Shadow Regulation is that government is also often quietly involved behind the scenes, and so it is here. The formation of the CSIP was announced at a White House-hosted industry event [PDF] on October 14, 2010, following months of talks between the administration and the CSIP’s founding industry members. Similarly, LegitScript is led by the former Associate Deputy Director Office of National Drug Control Policy, and subsists on lucrative contracts from government as well as from private industry. With this framework in place, the “voluntary” adoption by Internet intermediaries of measures that primarily benefit the pharmaceutical industry suddenly becomes very easily explicable.
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