Bogus Election Net Neutrality Connection Gets More Press, And Is Even More Wrong

from the details,-details dept

Apparently the big mainstream reporters don’t even bother with basic fact-checking any more. Last week, we wrote about how a bogus story was making the rounds, pretending that this last election was a referendum on net neutrality, after a paid consultant to the broadband industry put up a blog post noting that 95 Democratic candidates who had signed a pro-net neutrality pledge had lost. What was not mentioned by all the press who covered this was that (a) that particular list involved challengers, not incumbents, and almost all of them were in districts where they were almost certainly going to lose anyway (b) if you looked at a different list of incumbent Democrats who signed a pledge supporting net neutrality, none of them lost and (c) if you looked at a list of incumbent Democrats who signed an anti-net neutrality pledge, many of them did, in fact, lose their races to challengers. Point being: this race was not at all about net neutrality, but the press seems to have glommed onto that “all 95 who supported net neutrality lost” and simply refuse to fact-check it at all.

Take, for example, the piece written by reporter Chris Lefkow, of AFP, and published over the weekend — long after many sites had debunked this particular talking point. In it, Lefkow seems to get pretty much all of the details wrong. Admittedly, he’s “paraphrasing” from (notoriously anti-net neutrality) Richard Bennett’s blog:

Bennett, in a blog post at, noted that all 95 Democratic members of the House and Senate who had signed a public pledge to protect an “open Internet” had lost their seats in the Republican tidal wave.

Apparently, Lefkow and the AFP (which I had thought was better than this), don’t think you need to fact-check even the most basic claims as long as they appear on a blog somewhere. First of all, anyone who paid any attention whatsoever to the election last week would know that between the House and the Senate, 95 seats were not lost — in total. As I’m writing this up, there are still some races that haven’t been officially called, but of the official races, the Dems lost 60 seats in the House and another 6 in the Senate. There are 9 uncalled House races and 1 uncalled Senate race — so at most, the Democrats could have lost 76 seats. So anyone who even paid minimal attention to the election would know that this claim is false. The 95 number, as we noted, is about 95 Democratic challengers, not incumbents. And yet here’s one of the bigger mainstream publications claiming, without any support, that 95 incumbents lost their seats over net neutrality.

And people wonder why no one trusts the big news wires any more.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: afp

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Bogus Election Net Neutrality Connection Gets More Press, And Is Even More Wrong”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
weneedhelp (profile) says:

Big news sucks

Yeah, in Lancaster Pa, yesterday, a vet called popo for help, they didnt like his attitude, tazed him to death, then Faux 43 said they never heard of that happening before. Yeah OK faux, just like they never heard of using planes blah blah blah.

“don’t think you need to fact-check even the most basic claims” If you repeat the lie enough….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Journalists killed themselves

No one it going to kill off Journalism because it was DOA a long time ago. Almost no-one is a serious journalist anymore and I wonder sometimes if there ever was.

Fact checking? No way! The way the current system works is by validation. If someone else said it then it is true has become the mantra of news organizations like Fox. Then if all their pundits repeat it enough it has to be correct right?

I would argue that the majority of news has always been this way. You can even go back to our revolutionary days and see how newspaper articles about the Boston Massacre were grossly distorted and ignored all facts.

I think what is really different nowadays is that there are a growing number of people calling bullshit to all news outlets in general. It is clear they aren’t doing their jobs. That they are more concerned with profits than integrity.

The young people of this world have started ignoring them because they are simply no longer relevant. I think the future is bleak for them, but maybe their days of misinformation and opinion shaping being over is a good thing. I for one welcome a world without billion dollar news outlets.

Mike Wendy (profile) says:

It was PCCC's publicity stunt that backfired

Mike, it was PCCC’s publicity stunt and it backfired. None won, as noted here:

What would they / you make of it all (or even a substantial portion) won?

Anonymous Coward says:

What does it mean?

Internet people don’t go to vote?


Besides obviously, there were some more pressing matters like “jobs” people are not finding jobs or ways to sustain themselves.

But that is not in the politicians hands, is the people responsibility to find ways to make that happen, the government could help this by not enforcing IP which hinders the ability of people to make a living from something.

People need to find ways to make a living without much money just like the rest of the world, because the system is stabilizing itself and it could take a hundred years for everybody in the world to reach the same level of payment everywhere, till then there is no escaping off-shoring.

And there are ways to live using less money, which is bad for the government because it means less taxes, but it is great for people.

You can reduce your energy consumption, food costs and other things just by producing it yourself of course it takes more labor, the thing about money is that it is used today to buy labor, don’t be a victim innovate and you shall have a good life, working more for yourself and less for other unscrupulous people.

Yeah I know it sounds extreme, but if you want your destiny back at your hands is time to work for it and I don’t mean finding a job.

Homegrown revolution.

There you have some good ideas where to start your own revolution. They did a lot and it pays out, the quality of their life is better and they don’t rely to much on the government for anything.

Governments are good at security(and prone to exaggerating it) and that is what they should do the rest let it up to people to solve.

out_of_the_blue says:

Let's check the blog in question:

“All, or virtually all of 95 of the candidates who signed on to the PCCC?s Net Neutrality pledge were defeated (some races are yet to be called)…”

Lousily phrased but is at least “qualified” in the original.

Now, does Lefkow slant it? Well, Bennett *does* use the word “all”, and I take “virtually all” to be the same, so it *is* accurate to report that “Bennett noted”.

Does that totally warp the meaning; is it a relevant point? — Nah. It’s an elision of fact too small to quibble over when the writer is obviously merely crowing.

So I conclude that Mike is annoyed at the crowing over changed prospects for net neutrality, rather than strict word usage or lousy phrasing.

While I sympathize with the motive, I think it better to just rant about Bennett’s crowing and the dire consequences of the recent election in that the fascist wing of The Establishment is back, with some added true nuts ready to go on a mistaken tear through civil rights. It’s too late for parsing words closely.

Richard Bennett (profile) says:

The Net Neutrality Referendum

Before the election, I said that with all the pledges and letters, the election was effectively going to be a net neutrality referendum; that was before a vote was cast. Back then, a few weeks ago, Harold Feld of Public Knowledge said that the FCC should move to Title II in order to “fire up the base for the election.” Before the election, we all knew that NN was going to be a key issue for voters; not as key as the economy, the debt, employment, and health care, but certainly in the top 10, and a good litmus test of candidate philosophy on tech policy and regulation.

Few accounts of the letters and pledges are complete, and TD is cherry-picking among them. Not only was there the PCCC pledge – of candidates for office, including at least some incumbents as I understand it – there was a pro-reclass letter from Dems, an anti-reclass letter from Dems, an anti-neut letter from Reeps, and an anti-neut pledge from the Reeps.

If you add them all up, there will be more declared anti-neuts and anti-reclassers in office come January than there were before. The overwhelming majority of the Dems who signed the anti-reclass letter won, contrary to popular belief, as did most of the Reeps who signed the anti-reclass and the anti-neut pledge. All you have to do is count the names and see what happened to the support for this issue as a result of the election. If you do an honest survey, the answer is clear: net neutrality supporters lost the referendum.

Net neutrality is the biggest policy boondoggle of the past 30 years. All it’s done is distract the policy makers’ attention from the much more important questions about Internet adoption, privacy, intellectual property, and Internet architecture and security. The people who’ve been floating this boat have helped neither the country nor the Internet. It’s best for everyone if we put this issue to rest and get on with things that really make a difference.

Richard Bennett (profile) says:

Re: Re: The Net Neutrality Referendum

As Harold Feld of Public Knowledge says, NN is a “base issue” that appeals to party faithful and affects turnout. The Tea Party made a big point of NN as an example of the desire of the Dems to regulate everything, and the Net Roots has made it their number one issue since 2006; for them, lax regulation is a hallmark of Republican rule.

Are the Net Roots important? Considering that Obama’s first significant endorsements came from Markos Moulitsas and others of this ilk, I think they are. Both Boxer and Fiorina ran TV ads that stated their positions on NN in the Cal. Senate race.

I think it’s interesting to see what you’ve done to my blog post that touched on the 0-95 pledge in passing. The post was the basis of a story in The Hill, but you took it on only as a source for the AFP story. I didn’t say “incumbents”, I said “candidates,” which is accurate, so I’m certainly not responsible for the AFP claim. My larger point was that were aren’t going to see any pro-NN legislation in the next Congress. Do you disagree with that?

In the course of criticizing the media as sensationalistic, you’ve produced a post that’s both sensationalistic and selective.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The Net Neutrality Referendum

As Harold Feld of Public Knowledge says, NN is a “base issue” that appeals to party faithful and affects turnout.

I sure believe that PK wants to believe that, but I don’t think you really believe that, do you?

I think it’s interesting to see what you’ve done to my blog post that touched on the 0-95 pledge in passing. The post was the basis of a story in The Hill, but you took it on only as a source for the AFP story. I didn’t say “incumbents”, I said “candidates,” which is accurate, so I’m certainly not responsible for the AFP claim.

Richard, not everything is about *you*. This post was about the AFP claim and the fact that they made the mistake.

My larger point was that were aren’t going to see any pro-NN legislation in the next Congress. Do you disagree with that?

We weren’t going to see any pro-NN legislation no matter *what* Congress we had this time around.

DrClue (profile) says:

News and lies were married a long time ago.

Yup , news and lies did indeed marry a long long time ago,
with the difference between then and now being but the
size the global news family has grown to.

Fairly soon , one will get more facts in a cup of spent tea leaves than the combined media (print,electronic etc.)

At least the referenced story did get one thing correct, there was an election. Of course several alien observers
laughed themselves to death, disgorging a bevy of three headed bush babies , but thats another story.

Add Your Comment

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

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
04:48 Dumb Telecom Take Of The Week: Because The Internet Didn't Explode, Killing Net Neutrality Must Not Have Mattered (23)
09:37 British Telecom Wants Netflix To Pay A Tax Simply Because Squid Game Is Popular (32)
04:55 Axios Parrots A Lot Of Dumb, Debunked Nonsense About Net Neutrality (54)
10:50 NY AG Proves Broadband Industry Funded Phony Public Support For Attack On Net Neutrality (10)
06:24 The GOP Is Using Veterans As Props To Demonize Net Neutrality (22)
06:03 Telecom Using Veterans As Props To Demonize California's New Net Neutrality Law (12)
09:32 AT&T Whines That California Net Neutrality Rules Are Forcing It To Behave (11)
06:23 The New York Times (Falsely) Informs Its 7 Million Readers Net Neutrality Is 'Pointless' (51)
15:34 Facebook's Australian News Ban Did Demonstrate The Evil Of Zero Rating (18)
04:58 'Net Neutrality Hurt Internet Infrastructure Investment' Is The Bad Faith Lie That Simply Won't Die (11)
05:48 Dumb New GOP Talking Point: If You Restore Net Neutrality, You HAVE To Kill Section 230. Just Because! (66)
06:31 DOJ Drops Ridiculous Trump-Era Lawsuit Against California For Passing Net Neutrality Rules (13)
06:27 The Wall Street Journal Kisses Big Telecom's Ass In Whiny Screed About 'Big Tech' (13)
10:45 New Interim FCC Boss Jessica Rosenworcel Will Likely Restore Net Neutrality, Just Not Yet (5)
15:30 Small Idaho ISP 'Punishes' Twitter And Facebook's 'Censorship' ... By Blocking Access To Them Entirely (81)
05:29 A Few Reminders Before The Tired Net Neutrality Debate Is Rekindled (13)
06:22 U.S. Broadband Speeds Jumped 90% in 2020. But No, It Had Nothing To Do With Killing Net Neutrality. (12)
12:10 FCC Ignores The Courts, Finalizes Facts-Optional Repeal Of Net Neutrality (19)
10:46 It's Opposite Day At The FCC: Rejects All Its Own Legal Arguments Against Net Neutrality To Claim It Can Be The Internet Speech Police (13)
12:05 Blatant Hypocrite Ajit Pai Decides To Move Forward With Bogus, Unconstitutional Rulemaking On Section 230 (178)
06:49 FCC's Pai Puts Final Bullet In Net Neutrality Ahead Of Potential Demotion (25)
06:31 The EU Makes It Clear That 'Zero Rating' Violates Net Neutrality (6)
06:22 DOJ Continues Its Quest To Kill Net Neutrality (And Consumer Protection In General) In California (11)
11:08 Hypocritical AT&T Makes A Mockery Of Itself; Says 230 Should Be Reformed For Real Net Neutrality (28)
06:20 Trump, Big Telecom Continue Quest To Ban States From Protecting Broadband Consumers (19)
06:11 Senators Wyden And Markey Make It Clear AT&T Is Violating Net Neutrality (13)
06:31 Net Neutrali-what? AT&T's New Streaming Service Won't Count Against Its Broadband Caps. But Netflix Will. (25)
06:23 Telecom's Latest Dumb Claim: The Internet Only Works During A Pandemic Because We Killed Net Neutrality (49)
13:36 Ex-FCC Staffer Says FCC Authority Given Up In Net Neutrality Repeal Sure Would Prove Handy In A Crisis (13)
06:27 Clarence Thomas Regrets Brand X Decision That Paved Way For The Net Neutrality Wars (11)
More arrow