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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  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 30 May 2017 @ 9:34am

    "But network neutrality is also a shield for terrorists who seek to destroy civilization."

    I hear Net Neutrality causes crops to die too! And it causes cancer, erectile dysfunction, and sever explosive diarrhea.

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

  • icon
    William Braunfeld (profile), 30 May 2017 @ 9:35am

    *"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.)

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

    • icon
      William Braunfeld (profile), 30 May 2017 @ 9:36am

      Sigh.

      Aaaand markdown didn't work.

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

      • icon
        JoeCool (profile), 30 May 2017 @ 9:46am

        Re: Sigh.

        I keep pushing for an edit button, but we're never gonna see that.

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

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 May 2017 @ 9:55am

        Re: Sigh.

        I sometimes forget to check the use markdown box as well. Why it isn't checked by default isn't clear. If there are no markdown 'characters' used, being checked by default wouldn't hurt, would it?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2017 @ 10:28am

          Re: Re: Sigh.

          Markdown is a Net Neutrality Illuminati plot. You don't want that shit enabled by default!

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

        • icon
          The Wanderer (profile), 1 Jun 2017 @ 4:55am

          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.

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

  • identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 30 May 2017 @ 9:36am

    stuff

    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?

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 30 May 2017 @ 9:48am

      Re: stuff

      Everybody KNOWS that "Arabic" was only invented to give terrorists the ability to speak without law enforcement being able to understand them. It's the "poor man's" encryption, and like regular encryption, should be outlawed!
      ;)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2017 @ 9:57am

    By this guys logic all we had to do was shut down all American flight schools and there wouldn't have been 9/11.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2017 @ 10:00am

    There is no clear distinction between lawful and unlawful websites and content.

    Child porn sites are pretty illegal. That's as clear as day.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2017 @ 10:05am

    I would like to know their definition of the word "terrorist".
    I'm certain that it is fluid and dynamic, ever changing and morphing into what ever the discrimination du jour is on any particular day. In other words ... it means what I say it means.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2017 @ 11:21am

      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!

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

  • icon
    ThaumaTechnician (profile), 30 May 2017 @ 10:18am

    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" http://caselaw.findlaw.com/tx-court-of-appeals/1750796.html

    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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2017 @ 10:20am

    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.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2017 @ 2:12pm

      Re:

      Why limit their access when you could simply listen in and find out all the crazy shit they have planned and then stop them .... Ohhhhhh, is that it - they do not want to stop them.

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

  • identicon
    Eric, 30 May 2017 @ 10:22am

    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.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2017 @ 2:14pm

      Re: Net Neutrality Laws direct relationship with terrorism!!!

      Actually, we have seen an increase in terrorism here in the us, problem is they do want to recognize it - cover it up they have.

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

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 30 May 2017 @ 6:02pm

      Re: Net Neutrality Laws direct relationship with terrorism!!!

      Just like if there were more pirates, there would be less climate change.

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

  • icon
    sorrykb (profile), 30 May 2017 @ 10:26am

    Sadly, here in America, limiting access to the Internet would be illegal

    Many things about America are sad. This is not one of them.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2017 @ 10:28am

    If what major ISPs do and do not provide access to can affect global terrorism then it is fair to say that they are responsible for terrorism they failed to block.

    Let them have this. Then we can all sue them into oblivion when terrorism still inevitably occurs.

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

  • identicon
    Reality Byte, 30 May 2017 @ 10:51am

    Better way to compete?

    If ISPs want to compete on "who has the best filtering", wouldn't it be easier and better to just offer different DNS options a user could use? That way, a customer could sign up for whatever level of filtering and advertising they wanted without actually blocking anything.

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

  • icon
    HegemonicDistortion (profile), 30 May 2017 @ 11:04am

    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.

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

  • identicon
    J.R., 30 May 2017 @ 11:13am

    Furchtgott-Roth

    His position is exactly what one would suspect of a terrorist-sympathizer undercover trying to destroy Western values. He should be investigated by the FBI, NSA, etc.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2017 @ 11:24am

    anything that can be used to aid in the removal of privacy and freedom, while implementing as much surveillance and restriction on everything will be used by those who dont give a fuck because they think it wont affect them, ever!!

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 30 May 2017 @ 11:53am

    Next: Hitler would have been avoided if we killed net neutrality earlier!

    Ahem.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    My_Name_Here, 30 May 2017 @ 6:10pm

    All this fantastic news is getting my dick hard.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2017 @ 8:41am

    Most of the time I don't even think that I am competent enough to take care of a cat... then I see fools like this and I suddenly fell like I could run the whole damn world.
    Boosting confidence by sheer stupidity.... Thank you Harold Furchtgott-Roth.

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

  • identicon
    Terrorist and politician, 1 Jun 2017 @ 10:35am

    Terrorism is a great tool to kill freedom.

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


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