That’s telling ’em!

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!



  1. If the biggies like Google can argue they are a private company and can censor users, why can't a cake decorator in Podunk, AR censor how they decorate a cake?

  2. Or Cloudfront or GoDaddy could refuse to host your site or route traffic to it (Already happened). Google controls one of the most widely used DNS servers.

  3. I'm glad someone had the balls to call them out on their hypocrisy. Part of me would like to see the big tech companies regulated so they're prohibited from censoring content they don't like. What's good for the goose, etc.

    But in the end, that's never a good idea.

  4. I love this quote from one of the stories:

    "Preventing hate speech and bullying behavior online is not the same thing as allowing cable companies to block, throttle and extort money from consumers and the websites they love."

    They define hate speech and bullying behavior as anything that doesn't adhere to leftist dogma. Sounds to me like they want to block, throttle, and extort users if they want to use their services.

  5. –Sigh–… People, the fact that Mr. Pai put the light spot on Twitter & Co. doesn't mean the ideas he pushes are better. What you don't seem to want to accept is the fact that once you allow the providers to price your traffic not only by bandwidth but also by content you are positively screwed and that what this thing is all about. You complain (rightly so) on Twitter for their partisan position, but at least you know where it stands. A provider could decide to traffic-shape your connection so your site only gets a 28kbps connection and you will have no clue who did it – it could be anyone in the hop chain. They can define specific routes for your site generating extreme latency, traffic congestion, and so on AND YOU WOULDN'T KNOW IT.
    They could also block your traffic to and from specific nodes without your knowledge because that's basically what this is all about – they can decide what you can transfer and what not!
    The providers have practically the right to inspect your content and decide if they want to carry it or not, and you pay for that "service".

  6. C.G.R.,
    What do you do about it? If there are only two service providers in your area, and one is despicable (AT&T), what are your choices for internet access? A satellite dish is not a choice; I have no use for the program packages. So what does one do?

  7. " So what does one do?"

    lobby local and state .gov to lift any restrictions on competition in your marketplace

    start your own service

    What, no cellular?


  8. Actually that's a good point – less restrictions and more competition would bring alternatives. In addition the newer technologies will make wireless endpoints much more attractive for individual consumers.

  9. I can't get wired high speed where I live, so i had to choose between satellite and cellular home internet.

    Despite the hype, 'net neutrality' isn't discrimination and politics – it is fundamentally about money. Facebook, Google, Netflix all have video heavy platforms; they don't want to pay for the bandwidth they are using: they want your provider, and ultimately you, to pay for it.

  10. You pay for a flat rate connection, you get traffic as available, you want guaranteed bandwidth you get a different type of connection with a different price tag! Flat rate connections will ALWAYS deliver content by "best effort". The streaming providers pay their consumed bandwidth so as much as I dislike Facebook & Co, you don't pay for their bandwidth.

  11. Something that gets lost in the Net Neutrality discussion is that despite all the predictions of imminent imposition of fees and surcharges for the various websites and types of traffic most people voice concern about, the (illegal) net neutrality rules that Pai is repealing are very new, and there was nothing preventing any of the behavior being predicted for almost the entire history of the internet. Yet, we haven't seen that put in place. Why would the companies that never adopted these practices when it was possible and nobody was talking about net neutrality suddenly decide to go crazy with fees as soon as the rules are removed?

  12. Anonymous Anonymous said…
    " So what does one do?"

    lobby local and state .gov to lift any restrictions on competition in your marketplace

    Don't know that there are any restrictions. Did you miss that I said service is available from more than one provider?

    start your own service

    Not interested. Not interested in the business, not interested in the challenge.

    What, no cellular?

    Not to my desktop.

  13. I agree that Google, Twitter et al. should not get a free pass on censorship. I also agree that government censorship/regulation is a very dangerous tool to employ.

    I would propose that any content hosting site (YouTube, Google, Twitter, etc) that chooses to exercise content based censorship is perfectly free to do so. HOWEVER, I would suggest that by doing so they lose the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA.

    The DMCA exempts them from liability under the pretense that the infringing material is placed on their site at the direction of users. By choosing to censor certain content, I would argue that the site is taking ownership of content posted.

    This would in no way prohibit them from censoring content. It would mean that if they chose to do so a copyright holder could sue them directly.

    I am aware that this would most likely require a change in law, but I think it would be a reasonable change.

    Let them pick their poison. You can't claim that you don't know what is posted while you are simultaneously censoring content.


  14. I remember the line if not much of the movie. If you build it, they will come. I don't know much about NN but my ISP charges me a fee and not anyone else out there running corporate networks. I don't care. I support the disposal of the BS NN crap. TANSTAAFL!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *