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: broadband, marsha blackburn, net neutrality


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2017 @ 12:57pm

    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!

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