US President Donald Trump Impeached. Will This Affect Digital Rights?

Today, US president Donald Trump became the third president in US history to be impeached. One question is what impact will this have on digital rights.

For many, today is a day where justice has finally been served. After three years of stalling and questioning the political timing, US congressional Democrats finally did the right thing and held a vote to impeach US president Donald Trump. The vote largely split down party lines. With Democrats holding the balance of power, the vote on two articles of impeachment passed. At issue are two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. As sources point out, the process will eventually move to the Senate for a trial. It is expected that the Republicans will aid and abet what many consider to be a Russian asset of a president and vote to keep him in office.

So, with no real checks and balances in play, that leaves the next election. At that point, Americans can vote on whether it is acceptable that a president can break the law as long as they are Republican or if no one is above the law.

While Democrats tried pushing the fact that this is about ethics, morality, and the integrity of the countries democracy, Republicans obstructed and ultimately ensured that this process is mostly a political one.

The question is whether this historic day will have an impact on digital rights. After all, it is the republican controlled FCC that voted to repeal network neutrality back in 2017. That move sent shockwaves around the world. As many Americans fled to the safety of VPN providers, what little network neutrality is left is being held together by legal uncertainty.

As many knowledgeable people know, network neutrality is the concept that every packet is treated equally. ISPs are merely conduits of this data and treat everything equally. Because of this, it can block the practice of censorship, blocking, or throttling of data. It’s why ISPs can’t slow down traffic to competing streaming services and, in turn, offer zero rating for their own services. With network neutrality rules gone, American’s are on the edge of being sent over the edge into the abyss where ISPs can pick and choose who wins and loses on the Internet market. They can demand money from various services just to keep what traffic flow is going through. Really, as far as the monopolistic ISPs are concerned, anything goes since there are very few options Americans can choose to escape this type of network abuse.

So, with the US president now impeached, that can help set the ball rolling on voting him (and complicit Republicans) out of office. If Democrats regain control, it’s hard to say if they will start restoring some sanity in the regulatory process of the Internet. There’s always hope, but you never really know if this is going to be one of the many things Democrats will try to fix what the Trump administration broke.

Another item of note is NAFTA 2.0. As of the end of October, the “trade” agreement was inching closer to ratification, though many hurdles exist including the hurdle of impeachment. In NAFTA 2.0, Trump pushed for a massive digital rights crackdown. One issue that is front and centre is increasing the length of copyright terms to life plus 70 years. While the US and Mexico have term lengths equal to that or longer, Canada stuck with the Berne convention international standard of life plus 50 years. NAFTA 2.0 puts pressure on Canada to go more extreme on these copyright term lengths.

Assuming NAFTA 2.0 never passes before the election, then that puts into question of whether or not NAFTA 2.0 will continue as-is after the next election. With Trumps orange fingerprints all over it, for all we know, the process could be scrapped and we go back to normalcy with the regular NAFTA again. That would kill the provisions that would push for a crack down on digital rights. Of course, such a possibility is a small one.

At the end of the day, the impeachment process ultimately puts a question mark on a lot of things. A big question being floated around is “what happens next?” Outside of the eventual joke trial in the Senate, there’s not a lot of road map to work with at this stage. We’ll ultimately be taking this one day at a time until clarity finally emerges out of this whole process.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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