Former FCC Commissioner Uses Manchester Bombing As A Prop To Claim Net Neutrality Aids Terrorism

from the grotesqueries dept

Since the FCC’s decision to begin gutting net neutrality earlier this month, broadband providers have been busy as hell trying to convince the public that gutting these essential consumer protections is just no big deal. We, of course, had that horrible Verizon video in which the company not only falsely claimed that net neutrality isn’t being killed, but tried to pretend ISPs like Verizon didn’t just spend a decade trying to kill it. Other ISPs like Comcast have penned similar “nothing to see here, guys” missives, in which they insist this whole thing is all some kind of big misunderstanding.

While these ISPs use polite, sensible-sounding public statements to insist that nothing’s really changing and none of this will hurt consumers (that’s false, if it needs repeating), their usual assortment of think tankers, astroturfers, lobbyists, consultants, hired economists and other “doller per holler” policy folks are under no such constraints, and have been busy taking an already hyperbolic debate to an entirely new level.

For example, just two days removed from the recent Manchester bombing, Forbes ran this abomination of an attempt at prose by former FCC Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth, who now works at the ISP-funded Hudson Institute. In none-too-subtle fashion, Furchtgott-Roth uses the Manchester attack to suggest that none of this bloodshed would have happened if it wasn’t for net neutrality protections:

A sensible question is why civilized governments do not seek to deprive terrorists of unfettered access to the Internet…Sadly, here in America, limiting access to the Internet would be illegal under the euphemistic term ?network neutrality,? the two-year-old experiment in federal regulation of the Internet…To its supporters, network neutrality is a bulwark of civilization. But network neutrality is also a shield for terrorists who seek to destroy civilization.

If Furchtgott-Roth was hoping to craft a missive perfectly illustrating he has no idea how any of this works, this stumbling bit of prattle was a smashing success.

So, one, what kind of person, just two days removed from such a grisly attack, could think writing anything like this was a good idea? That said, to claim that you can somehow magically prevent just “terrorists” from accessing the internet quite clearly indicates he has no idea how the internet or extremism works. Net neutrality encourages the internet as a level playing field free of the anti-competitive or editorial meddling of giant telecom conglomerates comfortable in uncompetitive markets. Furchtgott-Roth’s problem isn’t with net neutrality — it’s just that he thinks government doesn’t censor internet content enough.

So, quite clearly on this list of things Furchtgott-Roth doesn’t understand sits free speech, first and foremost:

Under network neutrality, broadband companies–such as AT&T, Charter, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon?are prohibited from discriminating against any lawful websites or content. There is no clear distinction between lawful and unlawful websites and content. The net result is a broadband company could and likely would be sued for blocking websites housing information about recruitment and organization for ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Ku Klux Klan, or other terrorist groups. It is also illegal to block content that instructs viewers on how to manufacture explosives such as nail bombs.

So again, Furchtgott-Roth’s problem here clearly isn’t with the relatively basic net neutrality rules the FCC adopted. His problem is with the fact that governments and broadband providers aren’t censoring internet content enough. But it’s not the FCC’s net neutrality rules that prohibit that: it’s simply common sense. Even the large ISPs, which have said all manner of stupid things on this subject, have no problem with the anti-blocking provisions of the rules. They have zero interest in blocking specific websites, or the public relations shitshow that would occur were they to start.

Bizarrely, the author then proceeds to try and argue that gutting net neutrality rules would be a wonderful opportunity for ISPs to compete — based on which one engages in the most creative, ham-fisted censorship of internet content:

A better approach would be to allow consumer preferences and competitive market forces for ISPs to fight against terrorism. In Israel, an ISP Internet Rimon provides filtering technology to block indecent images. A similar approach could be used in the United States to block terrorism. Different ISPs could compete on the basis of their degree of ?anti-terrorist? efforts. Many individuals would be attracted to an anti-terrorist ISP. Some state and local governments might mandate purchase of such services by government institutions.

This ignores that there’s little to no competition in the US broadband market, ensuring that this extremely distorted vision of competition would never materialize. Now, you can argue that if you fixed broadband competition you’d fix net neutrality, since the latter is simply a symptom of the former. But our government has long turned a blind eye to this problem at large campaign contributor behest, leaving us with the kind of anti-competitive mess we’re trying to fix today. Insisting that gutting these consumer protections and dramatically ramping up censorship somehow fixes any of this is the intellectual equivalent of indigestion.

Having had a front-row seat for most of it, I’ve seen all manner of horrible arguments in the net neutrality debate. And while some have teetered close to this level of recklessness and absurdity (like the time Ajit Pai insisted net neutrality somehow encouraged dictators in Iran and North Korea), Furchtgott-Roth somehow managed to take things to an entirely new level. Using the Manchester bombing as a prop to justify dismantling essential consumer protections is simply grotesque, and represents a new, embarrassing low in what was already a swampy schlog of a technology policy debate.

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Comments on “Former FCC Commissioner Uses Manchester Bombing As A Prop To Claim Net Neutrality Aids Terrorism”

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William Braunfeld (profile) says:

*”A sensible question is why civilized governments do not seek to deprive terrorists of unfettered access to the Internet…”*

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; **or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;** or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Emphasis mine, of course.

(Incidentally, for the reframers out there: an ISP is not a provider of a platform. They are not compelled in this case to host speech, because they don’t own the internet, they just provide *access* to it.)

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Sigh.

When markdown is enabled, the spacing between paragraphs is different; whatever HTMLizing path is used for markdown leaves less space between paragraphs than the path used without markdown.

Personally, I think the spacing from the non-markdown approach is preferable, but even if you disagree with that it’s still unavoidable that the difference does exist.

Jordan Chandler (profile) says:


Why does the government let unfettered access to food, water, and oxygen by terrorists? Who are these people providing them with electricity? Also those women that give birth to them, who’s allowing that to happen? Also, Arabic, why is that a thing? Why do we allow terrorists to learn any language besides American? All these terrorists are alive too, why do we allow them to grow up?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

And there we have the crux of the problem.

– Delineation of subject responsive to the law is a slip and slide. I suspect subject hasn’t commited a felony when such a law would come into play
– The consequence is very limiting for the affecteds freedoms, particularly in the future.
– Enforcing the law effectively/fairly is very difficult, bordering on impossible

The trifecta of bad legislation. Bet the horse-trading politician falling for his spiel will be ecstatic!

ThaumaTechnician (profile) says:

All those ooliticians should be forced to read, out loud, the majority opinion in "Elvis Elvis Ramirez-Tamayo, Appellant v. The State of Texas, Appellee"

Then, they should have the first sentence in that ruling, namely:"A logical reasoning sequence based upon some “training and experience” — because drug traffickers have been seen breathing, then breathing is an indicia of drug trafficking" tattooed in 24-point Arial Bold reversed left-right, right on their chests, so they can read it every morning and evening, while they brush their teeth.

Anonymous Coward says:

A sensible question is why civilized governments do not seek to deprive terrorists of unfettered access to the Internet..

That is not not a reasonable question, because to limit terrorist access to the Internet limits ever bodies access to the Internet, as either you have a gatekeeper, or you do not have a gate keeper.

It is not possible to stop like minded people communicating, but it is possible to drive that communication underground, where theuir views will lack any moderating imput, and become even more extreme.

Perhaps he would like to carry out a real investigation into the caues of terrorism, which are are partisan politics which leave one or more groups in a county unrepresented, coupled yo cultural imperialism, and extreme wealth inequality.

The western Roman empire did not fall because the Barbarians wanted to destroy it, but rather because the Romans refused to let them join and enjoy the benefits of the Empire. The Romans refused to spread out their wealth more evenly, and because of that they ended up losing almost all of it.

Eric says:

Net Neutrality Laws direct relationship with terrorism!!!

So when net neutrality policies are removed we will see a reduction in terrorism…so one must conclude that since net neutrality policies have been put in place there must have been an increase in terrorism in the US.

Still looking for the alternate facts to support this, please help.

HegemonicDistortion says:

One gets the sense that Mr. Furchtgott-Roth is simply stupid. These “arguments” sound like something Marsha Blackburn would offer — just random free-market talking points (bonus: national security/”terrism” points!) welded onto whatever topic is at hand. It’s Sarah Palin with better syntax. Even Forbes should be embarrassed to run something this lacking in basic reasoning.

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