Policy battles during Web 1.0 like key escrow and CDA foreshadowed the fight for Web 3.0.

At the dawn of Web 1.0 policymakers nearly quashed the Internet with legislation such as the Communications Decency Act and key escrow. Many policy experts fear the same cycle has begun at the advent of Web 3.0. The clumsy cryptocurrency language in the Infrastructure Bill laid bare the lack of policymaker awareness of the broader “Web3” ecosystem.

Join us as our experts draw parallels between mistakes made in the 1990s and why policymakers must better understand the promise and potential of Web 3.0.

Background

Last month Senators included last minute language in the Infrastructure Bill that many fear could stifle the evolution of the Internet. The nascent cryptocurrency industry was shocked into action by the Senate. But they should have seen it coming — it has happened before.

In the mid-1990s policymakers in Washington nearly snuffed out the Internet as it started to develop. The proposed regulatory cuts were myriad. From taxes on cable modems to the Communications Decency Act, policymakers failed to see how this decentralized network would become good for anything. A band of policy experts, from civil society groups, companies, futurists and science fiction writers, plus the Internet’s fledgling user base, spent years trying to get policymakers to see the positive potential for the Internet — even if those use cases were theoretical. Some look back at those early days as the Internet Policy Wars.

Today, many veterans of those wars see remarkable parallels between those early days and what is happening today in Washington. The Internet is in the very early stages of an architectural shift back to more decentralized and open applications that many call Web 3.0. Lawmakers have reacted negatively to Web 3.0 and its promise of increased financial and infrastructural freedom and innovation — without understanding the underlying potential. Recent legislative proposals include taxing these new technologies and requiring backdoor keys for law enforcement access. They sound eerily familiar.

Until policymakers can see the potential use cases for Web 3.0 beyond digital currency, it looks like we are heading into early days of Internet Policy Wars 3.0.

This event was made possible in part by a grant from the Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web.

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Photo by NASA.