Julian Assange – whose organisation Wikileaks’ sad, thirsty Twitter DMs to Donald Trump Jr recently leaked, revealing he sought to coordinate with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign – appears to have had a moment of buyer’s regret on Wednesday morning.
Upon hearing the Republican-controlled FCC had finally scheduled a vote to scrap Barack Obama-era net neutrality rules, potentially enriching massive digital conglomerates at the expense of the open web, some brief glimmer of the old Assange seemed to spark back to life. But not really very brightly, as he was only able to express his opposition to the White House-backed change in the form of convoluted pretzel logic posited as a Machiavellian four-dimensional chess move.
Dear @realDonaldTrump: 'net neutrality' of some form is important. Your opponents control most internet companies. Without neutrality they can make your tweets load slowly, CNN load fast and infest everyone's phones with their ads. Careful.
— Defend Assange Campaign (@DefendAssange) November 21, 2017
“Dear @realDonaldTrump,” Assange wrote. “‘Net neutrality’ of some form is important. Your opponents control most internet companies. Without neutrality they can make your tweets load slowly, CNN load fast and infest everyone’s phones with their ads. Careful.”
As Assange has continued to hole up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for years while attempting to avoid extradition, Wikileaks has largely fallen apart and his originally stated mission of radical transparency has increasingly given way to bizarre pro-Trump ramblings, suspiciously biased editorial decisions and Twitter braggadocio.
To Assange’s credit, while appealing to the president’s manically paranoid psychology is not actually how public policy decisions should be made, that is one of the few approaches capable of grabbing his attention. Anti-trust advocates may have won a similar victory recently when Trump’s Department of Justice sued to block a (very bad for the public interest) merger between AT&T and Time Warner, possibly because Trump hates Time Warner subsidiary CNN with an unholy passion.
Alas, Assange is still probably barking up the wrong tree. Pai’s agency is ostensibly independent, and Pai is very committed to repealing the neutrality rules, so even the unlikely event of a last-minute pivot from the White House might not be enough to blunt his momentum. It’s yet even less likely that Republicans in Congress, who are broadly anti-net neutrality, would be willing to override the FCC to bring back an Obama-era directive.