It’s so nice to see the current head of the FCC using logic, rather than partisan political propaganda, to address the subject of net neutrality (which we discussed in these pages a few days ago).
Ajit Pai laid it on the line as far as true neutrality of expression is concerned.
Pai defended his order to roll back Title II, he said that some Silicon Valley players have been criticizing the plan–he singled out Twitter in particular–as a threat to the open internet, consumer choice and free expression.
Pai countered that it was Twitter that was discriminating on the basis of content, and edge players in general that were the ones discriminating on the basis of viewpoint.
. . .
“As just one of many examples, two months ago, Twitter blocked Rep. Marsha Blackburn [the Republican chair of the House Communications subcommittee who helped overturn FCC broadband privacy rules] from advertising her Senate campaign launch video because it featured a pro-life message. Before that, during the so-called [net neutrality] Day of Action, Twitter warned users that a link to a statement by one company on the topic of Internet regulation “may be unsafe.” And to say the least, the company appears to have a double standard when it comes to suspending or de-verifying conservative users’ accounts as opposed to those of liberal users. This conduct is many things, but it isn’t fighting for an open Internet.”
Pai called out others for similar actions, saying Twitter was not an outlier.
“[D]espite all the talk about the fear that broadband providers could decide what Internet content consumers can see, recent experience shows that so-called edge providers are in fact deciding what content they see. These providers routinely block or discriminate against content they don’t like. “
He used as examples an app store barring apps from cigar aficionados as promoting tobacco use, or “streaming services restricting videos from the likes of conservative commentator Dennis Prager on subjects he considers ‘important to understanding American values’.”
Pai took aim at algorithms for deciding what content web users see or don’t, but aren’t disclosed. Then there were the “online platforms secretly editing certain users’ comments. And of course, American companies caving to repressive foreign governments’ demands to block certain speech—conduct that would be repugnant to free expression if it occurred within our borders,” he added.
He said for all those reasons the edge was a bigger threat to the open net than broadband providers, particularly when it comes to viewpoint discrimination.
There’s more at the link.
I couldn’t agree more! Such behavior is the very opposite of “net neutrality”. It’s the abuse of its dominant position by a company (or companies – Facebook, Google, etc. are just as bad) to promote one viewpoint while discriminating against another. They can – and do – argue that since they’re private companies, they aren’t bound by any constitutional or legal requirements for “equal time” or non-discrimination, and so they can do as they please. Sure, they can – but then let them shut the hell up about “neutrality” in any way, shape or form. They don’t know the meaning of the word, in any context.
In that light, it’s hard to argue with Pai’s conclusion.
Pai’s decision to seek a full repeal of the rules was praised by the telecommunications trade groups as a boon for broadband investment, but loudly panned by the tech industry and consumer advocacy groups.
In his speech, Pai didn’t just attack tech companies. He also went after celebrities like musician Cher and actors George Takei, Mark Ruffalo and Alyssa Milano by name for criticizing the rules.
“These comments are absurd,” Pai said after reading off a tweet from Ruffalo claiming the net neutrality repeal would be fuel for authoritarianism. “Getting rid of government authority over the Internet is the exact opposite of authoritarianism.”
Again, more at the link.
That’s telling ’em!