If you logged into Twitter or Facebook over the past two weeks, you’ve probably been inundated with hysterical messages concerning net neutrality.
Here’s probably some of what you’ve heard about the horrific prospect of net neutrality’s removal.
It means Comcast and other super evil corporations are going to charge astronomical amounts of money for the average American to use the internet.
No net neutrality means those same evil corporations will now squelch free speech and jeopardize the right of courageous dissidents to speak truth to power.
Getting rid of net neutrality puts our democracy in peril and paves the way for the nation to turn into a corporate oligarchy.
To the average American, this all sounds pretty terrible — but is any of the hysteria really true?
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All this outrage has come to the fore after Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai announced last week his agency was rolling back Obama-era regulations on internet providers.
Pai’s children are now receiving threatening messages that their dad “murdered” democracy because of the new internet rules. (RELATED: Activists Harass FCC Chairman’s Family, Children At His Home)
The folks warning of corporate tyranny are apparently missing the fact that Big Tech companies are the major powers enthusiastically backing net neutrality. Pretty much every segment of Big Tech — Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon — is in favor of the policy, which kinda undermines the notion only corporate fat cats would oppose net neutrality.
Tech giants aren’t exactly scrappy rebels fighting the man. They are the man.
Not only that, but these companies have shown in the past few months that they are not quite as committed to a free and open internet as they claim to be.
That’s a fact Ajit Pai himself pointed out Tuesday in a speech he delivered in D.C.
The elimination of net neutrality is attacked for benefiting internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon, which supposedly are more evil than the chivalrous knights of Silicon Valley. But, according to Pai, these tech companies “are a much bigger actual threat to an open internet than broadband providers, especially when it comes to discrimination on the basis of viewpoint.”
He pointed toward the example of Twitter.
“When it comes to an open Internet, Twitter is part of the problem,” Pai declared. “The company has a viewpoint and uses that viewpoint to discriminate.”
He added in his speech: “[T]o say the least, the company appears to have a double standard when it comes to suspending or deverifying 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 offered another motivation for Big Tech’s desire to retain net neutrality. “They might cloak their advocacy in the public interest, but the real interest of these internet giants is in using the regulatory process to cement their dominance in the internet economy.”
For those comments, the liberal site Slate claimed that the Indian-American Pai was peddling alt-right talking points.
While supporters of net neutrality voice shrill complaints that internet service providers will end free speech, such comments directed at Pai reveal the net neutralizers aren’t actually committed to keeping the internet open to all.
From Twitter arbitrarily banning right-wing users to Google denying domain hosting to neo-Nazi websites, tech giants have shown they will use their power to stifle voices they object to.
So far, most of their targets for suppression have fallen under the umbrella of the alt right, which means the people who have been affected aren’t going to earn much national sympathy.
But there is an obvious slippery slope here. If Big Tech can be persuaded by leftwing activists to shut down one group’s legal speech, what is stopping them from shutting down other groups?
Twitter has already censored ads from mainstream immigration control groups like the Center for Immigration Studies. What if the next step is deeming those entities too hateful for domain hosting? (RELATED: Anti-Illegal Immigration Ads Violate Twitter’s ‘Hate Speech’ Rules)
What about groups like the Family Research Council that still oppose gay marriage? Or any other conservative organizations that run afoul of social justice warriors?
Net neutrality regulations won’t stop Big Tech from further suppressing speech
As Cloudfare CEO Matthew Prince said of his decision to remove his company’s security protection for the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer. “Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power.”
Yet, Prince and other tech CEOs have that power with net neutrality in place.
Big Tech’s support for net neutrality ultimately has nothing to do with keeping an open internet. It’s all about securing their own economic interests.