Someone Is Trying to Keep Us from Having an Open Internet
Definitely we know Russian bots are trying to influence public opinion in the US, in all kinds of ways, and probably helped elect Trump.
But certainly anyone who favors the open uncensored internet -- definitely anyone reading this blog!-- should be in favor of net neutrality rules.
Americans do not want internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast and Verizon controlling what websites they can see, or how quickly they can load them. When pollsters ask U.S. voters whether they support net neutrality — regulations that require ISPs to treat all web traffic equally — a large bipartisan majority answers in the affirmative.
Among Americans who care deeply about the issue, support for net neutrality is even more overwhelming. When the Federal Communications Commission considered unwinding those regulations in 2015, so many Americans posted pro-net-neutrality messages to the FCC’s webpage for public comments, the site crashed.
The ISPs, however, are quite keen on accruing more power to curate your internet experience (a.k.a. extort content creators into paying for competitive broadband speeds). And the Trump administration’s regulatory philosophy is, ostensibly, that powerful corporations should be able to do whatever unpopular thing they want (so long as they purchase an indulgence from a Republican campaign committee).
Thus, it wasn’t surprising when the GOP-controlled FCC began the process of ending net neutrality earlier this year by once again soliciting public comments on the policy. But the responses that the commission received were quite surprising, indeed: A solid majority of Americans who posted comments to the FCC’s website favored scrapping net neutrality.
You will be shocked to learn that 1.2 million Americans did not actually, individually, submit this lamentation of “Obama Title II power grab,” interspersed with random strings of “\n.”
In October, the data analytics company Gravwell found that only about 17 percent of the comments submitted to the FCC on net neutrality were written by individual humans.
Ninety-five percent of these were in favor of net neutrality. The rest of the comments were “submitted in bulk and many come in batches with obviously incorrect information — over 1,000,000 comments in July claimed to have a pornhub.com email address.” These were overwhelmingly supportive of the Trump administration’s position.
For some strange reason, the Trump administration has evinced zero interest in finding out how this happened. Schneiderman claims that his office contacted the FCC nine separate times about the investigation, without ever receiving a response. The attorney general wrote that this was a major headache for his team, since “successfully investigating this sort of illegal conduct requires the participation of the agency whose system was attacked.”
While bots were drowning out majoritarian opposition to ending net neutrality, Trump’s team was plotting to neutralize that opposition in the States.
Earlier this year, Republicans killed an Obama-era rule that restricted the ability of ISPs to collect and sell their users’ data without explicit permission.
Nearly two dozen states responded by proposing legislation that would impose similar restrictions on internet providers within their borders. FCC chair Ajit Pai is trying to preempt similar state-level subversion of his net-neutrality rollback, by stipulating in his “Restoring Internet Freedom” order that the federal rules change would override state and local regulations. Pai’s legal argument is that broadband qualifies as an “interstate” information service, and thus Uncle Sam has the power to block internet regulations that subvert federal policy.If nothing else, this Ajit Pai is one evil asshole, as are Trump and Republicans in general.