In this episode of Big Tech, Taylor Owen sits down with Ben Scott, director of policy and advocacy at Luminate, to discuss how the internet has evolved throughout his time in Washington, D.C. Scott has worked for Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, including in roles at the U.S. Department of State and on Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. “Wherever the internet has been, [he has] been,” Owen said of Scott’s role in digital policy.
While working on cable regulations in Washington in 2003, Scott realized that the internet would be the next major form of communication technology, sparking his interest in net neutrality regulations. “In a very short period of years before [the internet] becomes monetized and concentrated power takes it over, it becomes controlled by a handful of commercial interests, and then people give up trying to fight against that and that becomes status quo,” Scott said. He later joined Obama’s presidential campaign to draft the first-ever internet policy agenda for a presidential candidate.
While at the State Department, Scott saw the spread of the internet and its ability to promote democracy and enable societal change—in the Arab Spring, for example. During the same period, the influence of platform companies continued to grow in Washington, and eventually, Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign illustrated just how easily the internet could be manipulated. As Scott puts it, “If you are willing to go totally over the top with the most outrageous, the most sensational, the most divisive, the most controversial, provocative—that, ultimately, those messages spread farther, faster than anything else.”