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Comcast Paid Civil Rights Groups To Support Killing Broadband Privacy Rules

from the with-friends-like-these... dept

For years, one of the greasier lobbying and PR tactics by the telecom industry has been the use of minority groups to parrot awful policy positions. Historically, such groups are happy to take financing from a company like Comcast, in exchange for repeating whatever talking point memos are thrust in their general direction, even if the policy being supported may dramatically hurt their constituents. This strategy has played a starring role in supporting anti-consumer mega-mergers, killing attempts to make the cable box market more competitive, and efforts to eliminate net neutrality.

The goal is to provide an artificial wave of "support" for bad policies, used to then justify bad policy votes. And despite this being something the press has highlighted for the better part of several decades, the practice continues to work wonders. Hell, pretending to serve minority communities while effectively undermining them with bad internet policy is part of the reason Comcast now calls top lobbyist David Cohen the company's Chief Diversity Officer (something the folks at Comcast hate when I point it out, by the way).

Last week, we noted how Congress voted to kill relatively modest but necessary FCC privacy protections. You'd be hard pressed to find a single, financially-objective group or person that supports such a move. Even Donald Trump's most obnoxious supporters were relatively disgusted by the vote. Yet The Intercept notes that groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens and the OCA (Asian Pacific American Advocates) breathlessly urged the FCC to kill the rules, arguing that snoopvertising and data collection would be a great boon to low income families:

"The League of United Latin American Citizens and OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, two self-described civil rights organizations, told the FCC that “many consumers, especially households with limited incomes, appreciate receiving relevant advertising that is keyed to their interests and provides them with discounts on the products and services they use."

Of course, folks like Senator Ted Cruz then used this entirely-farmed support to insist there were "strenuous objections from throughout the internet community" at the creation of the rules, which simply wasn't true. Most people understood that the rules were a direct response to some reckless and irresponsible privacy practices at major ISPs -- ranging from charging consumers more to keep their data private, or using customer credit data to provide even worse customer support than they usually do. Yes, what consumer (minority or otherwise) doesn't want to pay significantly more money for absolutely no coherent reason?

It took only a little bit of digging for The Intercept to highlight what the real motivation for this support of anti-consumer policies was:

"OCA has long relied on telecom industry cash. Verizon and Comcast are listed as business advisory council members to OCA, and provide funding along with “corporate guidance to the organization.” Last year, both companies sponsored the OCA annual gala.

AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications and Verizon serve as part of the LULAC “corporate alliance,” providing “advice and assistance” to the group. Comcast gave $240,000 to LULAC between 2004 and 2012.

When a reporter asks these groups why they're supporting internet policies that run in stark contrast to their constituents, you'll usually be met with either breathless indignance at the idea that these groups are being used as marionettes, or no comment whatsoever (which was the case in the Intercept's latest report). This kind of co-opting still somehow doesn't get much attention in the technology press or policy circles, so it continues to work wonders. And it will continue to work wonders as the administration shifts its gaze from gutting privacy protections to killing net neutrality.


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 6:49am

    Civil Rights Groups...

    For sale, always have been and are just another part of corrupt governments. Every time I hear about some group saying or doing this I immediately question... who paid them to say this?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 7:00am

    “many consumers, especially households with limited incomes, appreciate receiving relevant advertising that is keyed to their interests and provides them with discounts on the products and services they use."

    So, what they're claiming here is that people like ads? That's the benefit? That they'll get ads? Not the magical unicorn that ought to be lower prices because the company will be making more off of our data, but ads?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    I.T. Guy, 5 Apr 2017 @ 7:23am

    Re: Civil Rights Groups...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 7:26am

    Representing the minority community

    72% of Americans opposed killing broadband privacy rules. It's only fair the 28% be heard too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 7:30am

    Re: Small Addition

    Ads for consumer goods and services that they likely cannot afford on limited incomes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 7:55am

    Re: Civil Rights Groups...

    ... and what "group" do you belong to?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    discordian_eris (profile), 5 Apr 2017 @ 7:59am

    Unfortunately, this kind of behaviour really can, and should, affect their credibility. They are demonstrating that they are willing to sell out the people they claim to advocate for. Makes you wonder what other positions they have, say on judges or legislation, they have that are amenable to change based on their donors wishes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 8:01am

    Re:

    and this is why they oppose the minimum wage - it assures that many are trapped in low income hell and will be looking for ways to make ends meet. This is making america great again ... for those few at the top, for the rest of us, not so much.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Kevin Hayden, 5 Apr 2017 @ 8:18am

    Grassroots donors should complain

    Being Canadian, I don't have much skin in this game, but here's a suggestion: Perhaps all the individuals who donated to these organizations and are now being affected by the new rules should demand their donations back. It would probably take a lot of them to make a dent against the millions 'donated' by the big corporations, but it's better than meekly handing over money to groups that are actually working against your interests and/or the public good.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Karl Bode (profile), 5 Apr 2017 @ 8:33am

    Re: Grassroots donors should complain

    A lot of the groups really are little more than a PO box and a handful of telecom sector sycophants happily regurgitating nonsense, with few genuine funders or constituents to annoy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 8:49am

    Re: Re: Civil Rights Groups...

    I belong to the party that puts America first.

    The very creation of a political party is done to usurp the will of its voters under the guise to providing a stronger group. Voters do NOT control their candidates... the Party does. Sure the parties will do things to make voters feel "included" but there is a constant force working against the will of the voters at every turn.

    If you voted for R or D, then you are likely placing a party before yourself or your own countrymen, and that will never end well!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 8:56am

    Re:

    We just need to stop creating political groups of any kind and consider legislation preventing their creation or mention on ballots.

    Or maybe... classify all political or social movement groups as Terrorist Cells.

    If you want someone to represent you in government... how about we just make everyone go and learn about them?

    I wonder if we would have even had a clinton, bush, obama, or trump if people had only their opinions of each candidate to vote on instead of their R or D status.

    of course we would need to change the election process from something else, but I actually would like to take the vote for president out of the hands of the citizens. It creates the Kingship Vice problem, where citizens ignore all other political forces and begin to focus on a single monolithic all powerful figure head and vote for which dictator dictates to them.

    the only thing Citizens should be allowed to vote for in the Central government is the house and senate... nothing else. If we do that, people will start to look at their congress critters a lot more for getting change in government. Instead people are more than willing to allow the Executive branch to usurp authority because of the party system we have created.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 9:29am

    Re: Representing the minority community

    15%*
    72% pro-privacy, 15% against, rest "not sure"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    michael, 5 Apr 2017 @ 10:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Civil Rights Groups...

    > I belong to the party that puts America first.

    Nice non-answer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 11:10am

    I've been trying to figure out how to "opt out" of this wonderful sharing thing that's supposed to save me money on Comcast's byzantine website. Is it hidden or non-existent?

    Is this going to be like the credit card companies' "opt outs", where you have to re-do it over and over and over again every year until finally at some point you just forget one year and that's it, your info is on their list? I suspect it will be.

    At any rate: everybody please go out and download Adblock or Ublock, plus Ghostery and/or SuperAntiSpyware, or any one of the many other fine aps out there that suppress advertising and corrals cookies. Or use a broswer with ad-blocking combined. I only occasionally see ads, but they seem to disappear next time I look, I assume when the app's list gets updated. I don't even see Youtube ads. These things work and work well and will take a bite out of the reason they're doing this: advertising profits.

    Must go investigate a good VPN now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Jennifer Hudson, 5 Apr 2017 @ 11:27am

    You know what can protect our privacy against this atrocity of our government, a VPN like PureVPN

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 11:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Civil Rights Groups...

    "I belong to the party that puts America first."
    ... and probably the MAGA thing too.

    Not entirely sure what this even means anymore, care to expound upon this much used and yet misunderstood saying?

    When some say this, I think they want to turn back the clock to maybe the 1800's, others I think want it even further - before america was a country. Yeah. lets make america not even a country anymore ... makes total sense, not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 11:47am

    Re: Re: Representing the minority community

    "15% against" other's privacy ...
    but their own privacy is a completely different story.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 11:50am

    Re: Re:

    Have you taken any classes on the American government, constitution, history, etc ?

    Based upon your post my guess is no, or possibly you advocate for a completely different type of government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    ECA (profile), 5 Apr 2017 @ 11:53am

    yEARS AND YEARS..

    "greasier lobbying and PR tactics by the telecom industry has been the use of minority groups to parrot awful policy positions. "

    They do many things..and this is just a side line.

    There is a system to send LETTERS to representatives and congress, in the MILLIONS.. but HOW can this have an affect if the Addresses are not REAL?? THEY ARE.. They may even have your NAME on them./.

    There is a service to make Phone calls..

    With all this hidden identity WHAT CANT BE DONE??

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2017 @ 12:18pm

    Re: Re: Representing the minority community

    15%*
    72% po-privacy, 15% against, rest waiting for the check to clear

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Whoever, 5 Apr 2017 @ 3:24pm

    What is OCA? It doesn't appear to be a non-profit.

    Searching for a 990 filing by OCA or "Asian Pacific American Advocates" turns up nothing, which suggests that it isn't a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Whoever, 5 Apr 2017 @ 3:34pm

    Re: What is OCA? ** correction **

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Whoever, 5 Apr 2017 @ 3:54pm

    Interesting item from OCA's 990

    As far as I can tell, OCA spends most of its outgoings on a national convention.

    The CEO of OCA is Kenneth Lee and the 990 reveals that there was a transaction (or transactions) with an amount of "890,489" with "KLL Investments LLC" which is 100% owned by Kenneth Lee and his wife.

    I also noticed that in question 2 of Part IV, the "Yes" box was ticked for the question "Is the organization required to complete Schedule B, Schedule of Contributors", but Schedule B is not present in the PDF file.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. icon
    The Wanderer (profile), 6 Apr 2017 @ 8:32am

    Re:

    No - what they're claiming here is that people like relevant ads better than they like irrelevant ones. The alleged benefit is that the ads people see will be more frequently useful than they otherwise would, and therefore will waste less of the people's time and bandwidth than would otherwise be the case.

    This is still a dubious proposition, but it's not quite as obviously ludicrous.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 7 Apr 2017 @ 5:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Civil Rights Groups...

    LOL! Well it'd solve the "Government ruins everything it touches" problem.

    Anarchists DO know that other countries are unlikely to follow suit, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 7 Apr 2017 @ 5:50am

    Re: Re: Re:

    *Cough!*anarchist*coughcough*

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 7 Apr 2017 @ 5:50am

    Re:

    Until they get banned because terrorism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 8 Apr 2017 @ 9:12am

    Misnomer

    Sorry, but a group that accepts a bribe to oppose civil rights is not a "civil rights group." More like a civil oppression group.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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