In some ways policy is the easiest thing to discuss when we’re talking about the data economy. That's because, well, there really isn’t any.
During the Clinton administration, "it was a very intentional act...to let the internet flourish with a minimum of regulation," says Nuala O'Connor of the Center for Democracy and Technology.
And not only was there very little put in place in the 1990s to restrain the tech industry, there was one foundational piece of policy created that enabled it: Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.
The bipartisan bill said, among other things, that “providers of interactive computer services” (remember, this was 1996) would not be treated as the publishers or speakers of the content that was published on the service. So basically a website operator like Yahoo or AOL -- or eventually Google, Facebook, Reddit, Craigslist and almost every site we think of now as a “platform” -- wouldn’t be liable for content on its site, as long as that content didn’t break the law in some way.
Without Section 230 we would not have the modern web, because the first time something objectionable or libelous or pornographic showed up in a forum or on a bulletin board or a web search, the site operator would have been sued out of existence.