How Companies Are Marking the Battle for the Net Protest
This Wednesday, some of your favorite websites and apps might not load as quickly as usual -- if they load at all.
Before you express outrage (or throw your device across the room in frustration), take note: The companies behind these web services are trying to send a message about net neutrality. They’re simulating a world in which broadband internet is no longer regulated as a public utility -- in which internet service providers (such as Comcast, Charter or Verizon) would have free competitive reign to charge a premium for high-speed access to certain websites.
The Internet-Wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality is being led by a group of nonprofits dedicated to civil liberties, including Fight for the Future, Free Press and Demand Progress, but more than 80,000 organizations, websites and internet users are expected to participate. These organizations spearheaded a similar day of advocacy on Sept. 10, 2014, before the Obama-era FCC established rules to protect and promote the open internet in Spring 2015.
On April 27 of this year the Federal Communications Commission released a draft of its proposal to roll back the 2015 protections. At that time, more than 800 companies and venture firms, including Techstars, Y Combinator, Chartbeat, Etsy and Medium, signed an open letter addressed to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
“Rather than dismantling regulations that allow the startup ecosystem to thrive, we urge you to focus instead on policies that would promote a stronger Internet for everyone,” the letter read.
On May 18, in a two-to-one decision, the FCC voted to open a public debate on net neutrality rules and whether those established in 2015 should be undone, publishing a new draft of its proposal the following week. The July 12 date for the Day of Action was announced on June 6. The public is free to comment on the FCC’s proposal, and the first deadline for comments is July 17.
Here’s what some participating groups are doing for the Day of Action in an attempt to raise awareness about net neutrality and push back against the FCC’s efforts to dismantle existing rules.
This article has been updated as more companies have launched their protest campaigns.
The internet giant released a blog post. The company also included the note in a newsletter to its “Take Action” community of users focused on internet issues.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg published a post to his Facebook account.
COO Sheryl Sandberg also published a post defending the existing rules, in which she linked to Zuckerberg’s note.
Like many other major web-based companies, Twitter released a blog post. In it, it provides directions for commenting on the FCC proposal.
“The FCC should abandon its misguided effort to obviate all the work that has been done on behalf of all Internet users,” the statement reads.
In addition, Twitter has added a loading symbol to tweets with the hashtag #NetNeutrality and is encouraging users to include the hashtag in conversations about the issue.
The inventor of the World Wide Web uploaded this call-to-action video:
Some Amazon customers have seen this subtle ad.
The streaming service has added this banner to its homepage with a link to the Internet Association’s net neutrality action page.
The video-game streaming site has taken a similar approach to Netflix.
The music-streaming service has also added a banner.
The homesharing marketplace has added this banner to its homepage.
The site known for its funny videos has resurfaced an original clip from 2014: "Why Net Neutrality Matters (And What You Can Do To Help)."
On Tuesday, just one day before the scheduled Battle for the Net protest, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs Bob Quinn released a statement titled, “Why We’re Joining the ‘Day of Action’ in Support of an Open Internet.”
This move surprised those who have watched AT&T and the FCC battle it out over net neutrality rules over the last couple of years. The telecoms conglomerate has made the distinction between its disagreement with the current rules and its support of a free and open internet, explaining that the two are not mutually exclusive.
“This may seem like an anomaly to many people who might question why AT&T is joining with those who have differing viewpoints on how to ensure an open and free internet,” Quinn’s statement reads. “But that’s exactly the point -- we all agree that an open internet is critical for ensuring freedom of expression and a free flow of ideas and commerce in the United States and around the world.”
This week, AT&T plans to run pro-net neutrality ads in Washington, D.C., according to Recode.
In a statement to The Verge, a spokesperson from Fight for the Future called AT&T’s announcement of its participation “ridiculous.”
Reddit got an early start on the action, hosting a series of AMAs about net neutrality, including one with U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, who leads the Senate Tech, Telecom and Internet Subcommittee.
“Reddit is built on the premise of letting individuals decide what content they find interesting,” a July 10 post on the company’s blog reads. “We believe the same basic principle should apply to the internet as a whole.”
On this Day of Action, Reddit is encouraging its users site-wide to voice their support for the open internet. Visitors to Reddit.com are being greeted with a pop-up message that slowly loads the following text:
The Reddit logo in the top left corner of the homepage is covered by a banner that reads “Monthy bandwidth exceeded: Click to upgrade.” Hovering over it displays the message, “Support the open internet at battleforthenet.com.”
In early 2015, Ohanian took to the phones in the fight for the net neutrality rules that were established later that year. On a day when Reddit users made 15,000 phone calls to the FCC and Congress in a span of three hours, he patched them through to the commission.
The adult entertainment website will prominently display a message on its website to show support and create awareness for the importance of net neutrality, according to a press release.
“Net neutrality is an essential driver of innovation for startups,” Pornhub VP Corey Price said in the release. “It has helped us and many others create leading-edge solutions that have huge benefits for consumers.”
In an interview with Motherboard, Price alluded to potential plans to incorporate loading symbols throughout the site to illustrate how a reversal of current net neutrality rules could mean slower online video speeds on select sites going forward.
Pornhub has displayed a banner at the top of its homepage for the day-of. “Join Pornhub in the fight to save net neutrality,” it reads, because “slow porn sucks.” The banner features loading symbol imagery.
Visitors to Medium.com will see an alert that reads, "Protect Internet freedom. Defend Net Neutrality. Take action," followed by a blog post explaining the importance of net neutrality.
Users of the dating platform will receive an in-app message directing them to a landing page on the Battle for the Net site where they can send a letter to the FCC and Congress.
The social video platform for gamers is displaying a site-wide alert GIF encouraging its users to send a letter to the FCC and Congress via battleforthenet.com.
When Firefox browser users open a new tab or window, they’ll see a bulletin directing them to comment on the FCC proposal. Mozilla has used this strategy in the past to direct users to advocacy pages related to online privacy, surveillance reform and more, according to Recode.
Broadband for America
Broadband for America -- a coalition whose members include AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter, CTIA (The Wireless Association), Comcast, NCTA (The Internet & Television Association), the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and the USTelecom Association -- is running ads arguing that the FCC rules should be replaced by permanent legislation.
Clicking an ad like the one pictured above, which ran in the July 12 edition of the “Login” newsletter by news publication Axios, takes you to a page where you can submit a letter that describes the existing rules as “old laws designed for the payphone era, not the Internet Age.” Broadband for America advocates for the basic principles of net neutrality, i.e. “a free and open internet.”
The Internet Association
The Internet Association, which is a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group that represents companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, has launched a GIF-filled website explaining net neutrality. It directs visitors to comment on the FCC proposal.
Fight for the Future
The nonprofit leading the charge on this Day of Action has shared a variety of pop-ups, banners, plugins, social media avatars and other tools that website administrators can implement to raise awareness about the issue at hand and direct site visitors to comment on the FCC’s proposal. Many take the form of a “loading” symbol or a similar web roadblock.