Crowdfunded Billboards Shame Politicians For Selling You Out On Net Neutrality

from the something-resembling-accountability dept

Earlier this year you might recall that lawmakers voted along party lines to kill consumer broadband privacy protections. The rules, which large ISPs whined incessantly about, were relatively basic; simply ensuring that ISPs couldn’t collect or sell your personal data without being transparent about it and providing working opt out tools. The rules were only proposed after ISPs repeatedly showed they weren’t able to self regulate on this front in the face of limited competition, from AT&T’s plan to charge more for privacy, to Verizon getting busted for covertly modifying wireless packets to track users without consent.

After a massive lobbying push, the usual loyal ISP allies like Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn rushed to help free these incumbent duopolists from the terror of accountability. In response, many of these lawmakers faced a naming and shaming campaign by consumer advocacy group Fight for the Future, which crowdsourced the funding of billboards erected in their home districts clearly highlighting how they took ISP campaign contributions in exchange for selling consumer privacy down river:

Of course many of those same lawmakers have, as instructed, now shifted their gaze toward supporting the FCC’s plan to ignore the public and dismantle net neutrality protections. As a plan B, most of them are being prodded by ISPs to help craft a new net neutrality law. One that pretends to solve the problem, but will be written by industry lawyers to intentionally include so many loopholes as to be arguably useless. This cacophony of self-serving dysfunction again highlights how AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter campaign contributions trump the public interest on a routinely grotesque scale.

Hoping to piggyback on its privacy campaign, Fight for the Future has now similarly-crowdfunded new billboards shaming lawmakers that have breathlessly supported killing popular net neutrality protections. Which politicians are shamed is being determined by a congressional scorecard, which tracks just how cozy politicians are with incumbent telecom duopolies. Needless to say, Marsha Blackburn again took top honors and is being featured again in the group’s latest effort:

The group is hoping that this naming and shaming campaign will help shake these lawmakers’ constituents out of their apparent slumber:

“Politicians need to learn that they can?t attack free speech on the Internet and expect to get away with it,? said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future (pronouns: she/hers), ?Voters from across the political spectrum all agree that they don?t want companies like Comcast and Verizon dictating what they can see and do online. No one is fooled by corrupt lawmakers? attempts to push for bad legislation while they strip Internet users of protections at the FCC. Hundreds of people donated to make these billboards possible. When you come for the Internet, the Internet comes for you.?

The problem, as always, is that folks like Marsha Blackburn have been selling out their constituents for years and are consistently re-elected anyway. Blackburn was a major supporter of SOPA, and is the cornerstone of an AT&T stranglehold over Tennessee’s state legislature that’s so severe, AT&T lawyers are quite literally allowed to write protectionist state laws protecting the company from anything that even smells like competition. Tennessee is, not at all coincidentally, one of the least connected states in the union for just this reason.

Of course there’s any number of reasons for why folks like Blackburn are immune to accountability efforts. Gerrymandering and voter suppression certainly plays a role. But so too does concerted disinformation campaigns that frame kissing Comcast’s ass as a heroic quest for freedom, and important technology issues of interest to all (like oh, the internet fucking working) as somehow partisan. Still, you’d like to think that with enough elbow grease and repetition, even folks like Blackburn can’t be permanently immune from something at least vaguely resembling accountability.

Filed Under: , ,

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 “Crowdfunded Billboards Shame Politicians For Selling You Out On Net Neutrality”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

well I hope that is not their entire premise, because if it is, it is a STUPID premise.

The idea should be to let the rest of us know so that the politard is voted out next time around. THAT will catch some attention. Politicians give a shit about their elect-ability, based it all on that and you will have a much better time at this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

There are very few, if any, politicians getting elected on their opinion about privacy rights and NN.

Most politicians learn that you need to say the right things about specific topics, 1 to arouse media controversy and 2 to be able to reframe the issue so voters may like it. Any secondary issues like privacy and NN are on sale in the name of thee American Exceptionalism, american capitalism. God, never change these talking money!

ECA (profile) says:


A requirement that a certain amount of VOTES for a person MUST BE HAD..they will ALWAYs have an office..

1,000,000 registered..
100,000 VOTE
To win you MUST GET 51% of the 100,000??

I would also ASK that another selection be made available..
Why am I required to VOTE for those listed when I DONT LIKE ANY OF THEM..and I dont think Any are Qualified..

Anonymous Coward says:


Why am I required to VOTE for those listed when I DONT LIKE ANY OF THEM..and I dont think Any are Qualified..

In American, you’re not required to vote, and if you choose to vote, you can generally vote for anyone or no one. I don’t know what would happen if "write-in candidate" "none of the above" actually won, but it would be interesting. Don’t let politicians convince you to vote for only the presented choices ("lesser of 2 evils" etc.)

The bigger question is whether a concept of "representatives" even makes sense anymore. In the 1700s, it wasn’t remotely practical to get a daily opinion from everyone in the country. These days it seems like we get everyone’s opinion within minutes of any news story.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: UNTIL..

The trouble is that if you don’t vote, you are not counted towards the “total” which determines how many votes constitute a “majority”.

In other words: if you vote, and there are 1,000,000 votes cast in that specific election, then winning requires getting 500,001 votes.

But if you don’t vote, then there are only 999,999 votes cast in that specific election, and winning requires only getting 500,000 votes.

A “none of the above” ballot option would have your vote counted towards the total, but not towards any of the individual candidates.

The problem with that, and one of the major reasons why such an option is unlikely to ever be adopted, is the question of what to do if A: this results in no one winning at all, and B: what happens if “none of the above” wins directly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: UNTIL..

A very different system from the one pitched since the original focus on “none of the above”, which is a surefire way to get less democracy (every vote for none will give people with alternative claims to power even more power).

I like the exhaustive_ballot model in general. One allure is the similarity to an existing well-working and relatively popular system. As long as you don’t get too many candidates on the ballot, it could work well.

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...