Facebook, Google Wake Up From Their Coma On The Subject, Join Wednesday's Massive Net Neutrality Protest

from the nice-to-see-you-could-show-up dept

So if you hadn’t heard, Wednesday will bear witness to a major protest (both online and off) against the FCC’s plan to kill popular net neutrality protections here in the States. Spearheaded by consumer advocacy group Fight for the Future, the “day of action” is an effort to bring attention to the attack on net neutrality, to drive more people to the FCC’s comment proceeding, and to generate a wave of backlash supporters hope will mirror the SOPA/PIPA uprising. Countless small companies, consumer groups, and many large companies (including Amazon, Reddit, and Netflix) will be participating in the protests.

But also joining the proceedings are several Silicon Valley giants that, in recent years, have not just been apathetic to genuine net neutrality, but in many instances have actively worked to undermine the concept. While they didn’t make a formal announcement (that would have been too bold), both Google and Facebook reps are quietly telling news outlets they’ll be participating in the protests. The depth of their involvement isn’t clear, but managers of the campaign say they’re obviously happy with the support all the same:

“We have not heard directly from either Facebook or Google, but we?re glad to hear that these companies are listening to their employees and Internet users and will speak out for net neutrality with the rest of the Internet on July 12,” Evan Greer, campaign director at Fight for the Future and an organizer for the event, said in a statement.

“In previous years these companies have often been on the sidelines of these fights, so we hope that they plan to do something meaningful in the spirit of the protest and educate their users about what?s at stake if we lose net neutrality protections that protect our online free speech, and give them opportunities to take action.”

Saying that Google and Facebook have been “on the sidelines” of the net neutrality fight is understandably polite on Greer’s part. Both have been working hard to broaden their lobbying focus under the Trump administration, and both have been more than happy to sacrifice some integrity (and the health of the internet) in the process. They’ve not only been mute as the FCC has taken aim at the rules, but historically they’ve taken actions to directly undermine the entire concept of network neutrality — here and abroad.

You’ll recall Facebook faced a massive backlash in India after it tried to corner the ad market with a free, AOL-esque service that critics say gave Facebook far too much influence over what content consumers would see. Criticism only grew after the “zero rated” service initially went so far as to prohibit the use of encryption. India ultimately banned the practice after critics like Mozilla pointed out that if you want to bring internet access to the poor — you should actually bring real internet access to the poor, not a curated walled garden that only thinly disguises your international ad ambitions.

While consistently still portrayed by some press outlets as a net neutrality ally, Google has also effectively been AWOL from the discussion since 2010, when it actively worked to make the FCC’s initial rules as flimsy as possible. Working hand in hand with AT&T and Verizon, Google played a big part in ensuring the original rules didn’t even cover wireless networks. When efforts emerged in 2015 to craft the notably tougher rules we currently have (for now), Google was nowhere to be found — and has lobbied pretty consistently against net neutrality protections for consumers overseas.

So yes, while it should be applauded that both companies are participating in Wednesday’s proceedings, the depth of their participation is far from clear, and their efforts to undermine net neutrality in recent years should not be forgotten by those working to keep the internet a relatively open and healthy platform for competition and free speech.

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Companies: facebook, google

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Comments on “Facebook, Google Wake Up From Their Coma On The Subject, Join Wednesday's Massive Net Neutrality Protest”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Good that there's a protest

  1. As you should know, “you can opt out” has been the constant refrain of spammers for years. If you don’t know this — well, you do now. Understand that “you can opt out” is semantically equivalent to a full confession.

    2. They’re spamming addresses that don’t belong to their members, that have never belonged to their members, and in some cases, have never existed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Good that there's a protest

As you should know, “you can opt out” has been the constant refrain of spammers for years. If you don’t know this — well, you do now. Understand that “you can opt out” is semantically equivalent to a full confession.

As someone who runs mailing lists for a number of non-profit organizations, it is amazing how many times I get accused of spamming when none of the mailing lists I run (for others) are set up to allow people to be added without their explicit authorization, meaning that not only do they have to click the button that says “please add me to the mailing list” but also have to respond to the email sent to their account saying that they clicked on the button and asking them to confirm they want to be on the list. And if my server receives negative confirmation, their email is blacklisted from future requests. And every confirmation is logged.

Yet someone always comes along and says “you’re spamming me, I never asked to be on this list.” And when presented with the log messages and the process, they always skulk back into the ether. (Of course, I remove them and blacklist their email address…which has caused it’s own drama.)

It always amazes me when someone comes in to a forum such as this and blasts stuff like this…while it may be true, in my experience it is usually someone who adds themselves to a mailing list, forgets they did, and then can’t seem to manage to figure out (usually posted in the headers and footers of mailing lists,) how to get out of the list.

XcOM987 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Good that there's a protest

Do you happen to have any evidence to support your second point?

I never recieved any communication from EFF other than website adverts till I signed up to their newsletters and such, I also note that you can unsubscribe from them.

The unsubscribe thing is a big deal, as it means I had to subscribe in the first place therefor precluding it from being spam.

Anonymous Coward says:

It would be absolutely awesome if Google and Facebook came out in support of net neutrality on Wednesday. However, given their lack of support (and sometimes opposition) in recent years, this seems like a really weird move for them. The fact that they aren’t signing on officially to the protest is strange if they really do support it.

What do you think the chances would be if instead of protesting for net neutrality on Wednesday, they protested against it and that is why they are “participating” but haven’t officially joined the protest?

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

I remember months ago when people were fearful about Mark Zuckerbeg, Facebook’s CEO and Founder, running for president.

I think Facebook’s reluctance to join the Net Neutrality fight speaks volumes to the credibility of that rumor, it’s not true. Zuckerberg would be out in front trying to generate free publicity for himself by defending net neutrality if he were really serious about pulling a Trump and launching a political career.

Karl Bode (profile) says:

Re: Re:

He’s clearly trying to make inroads in flyover country for one reason or another, possibly political. But so few people can actually tell you what net neutrality even is, I doubt it’s much of an impediment to whatever his ambitions are.

And it’s not like they admit they oppose net neutrality. Most of the time they claim to support it while actively undermining it, something people not in tune to the recent “Free Basics” shit show over in India probably aren’t aware of.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Inquiring minds want to know.

Techdirt is always participating.

What i would do is search the relevant site or see if they are on the FFTF list. (Although said list seems a bit wonky in some browser environments, to say the least.) Slashdot seems to promote it and is on the list. Ars/Nast are not listed AFAICT. But i am uninterested and therefore unwilling to investigate further into some particular creature’s participation or level thereof. You will see in a bit more than a day at this point. Maybe someone with more site affinity to ars knows.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Empty words

Giving how last minute their claims of ‘support’ are coming, and the fact that they appear to have been rather vague as to what form that support would take, I’m guessing this has little to nothing to do with actually supporting NN, and everything to do with a cheap PR stunt and/or avoiding the backlash from people who realized that they’ve been rather silent on the issue so far.

PR and/or CYOA more than actual support basically, not worth a round of applause, but maybe enough for a half-hearted ‘well, you tried’. Still, given the size of the companies if they do actually show a measure of support it’s better than nothing I guess.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think that moment was quite a long time ago. Netflix is the only one with personal skin in the in any remotely recent sense. Not sure that any part of FB culture ever cared. Certainly many arguments could be made about teh goog. But if any of them ever had true principles they wished to espouse, they are far past that point. The best one can hope is to shift them in a better direction by popular demand, whether they do it grudgingly or in an attempt to capitalize on it.

Anonymous Coward says:

The shameless opportunism is so blatant that even a Techdirt minion noticed.

And against Google and Facebook! Why, this hard-hitting piece makes up for the prior years non-criticizing of both here at TD.

Oh, relapse last paragraph! This half-hidden PR stunt “should be applauded”, eh? — Techdirt should always mention that Google sponsors Masnick’s little “think tank”.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Incorrect claims and one-eighth truths

The funny thing about making claims like that is that those of us who’ve been here for years know how completely full of crap they are. TD has criticized Google and Facebook plenty when they did something wrong, so claiming otherwise is either misinformed or deliberately dishonest, neither of which are something you should be proud of.

As for Google sponsoring the Copia Institute, you got that partially right, so that’s something I suppose. Google is one of the sponsors, alongside eight others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Incorrect claims and one-eighth truths

Apparently the RIAA can sponsor whoever they want, but the moment Google puts money anywhere, regardless of whether anyone else benign or unrelated is also paying, suddenly the well is irreparably poisoned.

Google could make a donation to the Society of Believing That Slitting Your Throat is Bad For You, and out_of_the_blue would foam at the mouth.

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