Net Neutrality Battle Gets Silly… Astroturfers, Sock Puppets, Student Projects, Overwritten Word Docs… Oh My

from the and-here-we-go dept

This was pretty predictable, but it’s still unfortunate that it’s happening. We’ve complained in the past that both sides on the net neutrality debate are exaggerating and making absolutely ridiculous arguments, and even though I agree that putting net neutrality in the law in some manner is a bad, bad idea, I have to admit that the arguments by most of those against such rules is so ridiculous that it makes me wonder they’re thinking. There were the outright lies — such as the ridiculous claim that Google gets its bandwidth for free (to which I asked if the lobbyist who made that statement would pay Google’s broadband bill — and he never responded). Then there are the claims that net neutrality would mean the end of the internet or no more iPhones, both of which are ridiculous hyperbole that have no basis in truth.

Given that there actually are perfectly good arguments against regulations on this issue without resorting to such ridiculous lies, I actually think that such claims really hurt the case of those who are worried about the unintended consequences of opening up the internet to regulation.

However, with the FCC’s recent decision to sorta, kinda, partially reclassify broadband access, it seems like the lobbyists, sock puppets and shills are going into overdrive, and it’s not helping anyone. In fact, part of the mess is that everyone now is looking for big “gotchas” on either side. For example, the website Think Progress got its hands on a PowerPoint apparently coordinating the ridiculously over-the-top anti-net-neutrality campaign, which they’re apparently trying to rebrand “net brutality.”

The whole thing reads like what you’d expect from a lobbying effort… but it turns out that it was just a student project, though, the attention given it by Think Progress may have just catapulted it into something more. That said, the project itself is filled with questionable activities, where they even admit that the whole goal is to create the impression that it’s a grass roots effort. And, not surprisingly, the project’s blog links to some highly questionable sources that have been shown to be sock puppetry and astroturfing in the past.

Of course, the other side isn’t immune to questionable activities either. It didn’t take long for the press to realize that a letter that was being passed around by Rep. Jay Inslee in support of the FCC’s move had metadata indicating it was actually written by the policy director of Free Press, a group that has been ferociously pushing for net neutrality regulations for quite some time. Ridiculously, Inslee is trying to pretend that the document wasn’t written by Free Press by claiming a staffer had just typed over a Word doc sent by Free Press:

Inslee’s office told Hillicon Valley on Tuesday that Scott did not, in fact, draft the letter on behalf of the congressman. Rather, as Inslee’s staff scrambled to put out something last week in support of the FCC’s goals, it consulted old documents and industry talking points for ideas. A staff member ultimately typed the new letter on top of the Word document that Free Press previously sent Inslee — the date of which was May 7 — meaning the meta-data still reflected Scott as its author.

“Yep, that’s it, in our haste we typed over a word document with someone else’s meta tag,” said communications director Robert Kellar. “There is no plot and we created the letter.”

I mean, it even sounds like Kellar knows he’s not fooling anyone with the “Yep, that’s it” part of the statement. It’s about this far away from “Yeah… that’s the ticket…”

Either way, as we predicted, the whole thing is becoming a political food fight being manhandled by lobbyists and special interests, with little regard for the deeper, important, underlying issues. Even when moves are being made by people outside of the beltway, it’s being dissected for the driving forces behind it, rather than what actually makes sense. What comes out in the end is going to be shaped by those lobbyists and special interests. And that’s my big fear with all of this. The end result isn’t going to have anything to do with actually looking at what’s best for the internet or the American people, but who can game the system better and turn this into a hotter political football.

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Comments on “Net Neutrality Battle Gets Silly… Astroturfers, Sock Puppets, Student Projects, Overwritten Word Docs… Oh My”

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25 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I’m terribly frightened to ask this, but do you have Alzheimer’s disease? The terribly astounding progression of your mental degradation has been quite frightening to watch.

First you forget your login password, then your grammatical ability slowly slipped away. Now your overall coherence is starting to fade.

Even though you have clashed frequently with the authors and readers of Techdirt, I can assure you that all us give our complete support to you in your struggle.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Well, the thing is it’s like a bell curve. At first he started out like an idiot. Eventually he started improving to the point of being able to almost produce coherent sentences. Still couldn’t make non contradictory paragraphs, but coherent sentences. Now he’s devolving again. I think it works in cycles or something.

tecolote says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

previous comment addressed to dark helmet.

I love my country but I do see it’s flaws. The problem with our government is that we have only the left and the right. RIGHT? We need up and down and all around parties. Then and only then will things really get challenged. Look at our neighbors to the south. For centuries, El Pri (Republican sort of) dominated the nation over the PRD. But then el PAN, which actually works for the people got it together and won.

Left or Right, they’re just looking for their best interest not ours.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Re: Net Neutrality

Sounds good and is an admirable goal, but what about the unintended consequences of no regulation. Do you really trust the private sector? Be careful of what you ask for!

The anecdotal evidence is that the private sector will bastardize net neutrality to extort further profits. The mantra of less government regulation is simply another populist example of giving corporations the unintended “freedom” to lie and steal.

If you want less government, demand that the corporations provide some substantial promises that they won’t break net neutrality. It’s about time that those who want freedom from government regulation behave ethically. Freedom is not a license to steal.

Nick Dynice (profile) says:

So a bunch of students support the views of telecoms, leave their site up supporting those views, and link to netcompetition.org, a lobbying group for the telecoms headed by Scott Cleland, a guy who loves to punch Google whenever he gets the chance.

The issue is so convoluted now. They are trying to reframe the legitimate neutrality we are all fans of as a regulation where the neutrality is guaranteed/enforced by the FCC or FTC. They are calling it “Obamacare for the Internet,” “government takeover.” This is not Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is, for the most part, having everyone (ISPs, hosts, Google) not do anything differently than they are now.

Anita Evans (profile) says:

Why metadata is bad and people still don't get it.

Wow… Loved this article and how you uncovered the ‘covering up’ and it’s so lame…
I work teaching technical skills to lawyers who still ‘don’t get the whole metadata thing.’
I swear I do my best to convey this idea. Maybe forwarding your story to them would make them understand.

Viking says:

Re: Why metadata is bad and people still don't get it.

Metadata is just one more complication.

The worst ‘over exposure’ for a document I’ve ever seen was by an attorney who inadvertently saved a (confidential) strategy document for a real estate deal into the User/Documents file on a desktop computer in a hotel room.

It’s always amusing to check those default locations on shared computers.

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