Digital Commerce

How much government regulation is needed?


Once known mainly for chat rooms, e-mail and pornography, the Internet is rapidly being transformed into a powerful commercial selling tool. U.S. business transactions on the World Wide Web totaled $43 billion in 1998 and could rise to $1.3 trillion by 2003. Companies increasingly go online to order parts, schedule shipments and obtain business services. Consumers are clicking on Web sites that sell books, recordings and high-tech equipment. But all of the activity is posing difficult questions for regulators, who must set rules for the thriving marketplace. Among the chief issues are taxing sales in cyberspace, defining appropriate commercial speech used on Web sites and applying antitrust laws to an industry often likened to the Wild West.

Organic farmers Florence and Nigel Walker of Winters, Calif., ...

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