It's that time again. It's time to break the internet in order to raise awareness about net neutrality. The FCC vote to repeal Title II protections is on Thursday in the US, and web-based protests are kicking off in response. Some of the biggest pioneers of tech jumped in on Monday to give the protests a bump, but the difference now is that it may be the last time we'll see such calls to action over Title II.
Image Source: Fight for the Future
[AU Editor's Note: Does Australian activism for an American law like... count for anything? We honestly don't know, but it might be worth a shot.]
FCC rules that help ensure telecoms treat all web traffic equally are under threat. In fact, the rules are perpetually under threat by telecoms and the lobbyists that would like the freedom to throttle websites or charge people extra for their favourite online destinations. The telecoms swear that they don't want to block, slow down or discriminate against any particular content; they just want the option to do it. According to at least one recent study, telcos have "spent $572 million [$760 million] on attempts to influence the FCC and other government agencies since 2008," so they can have this option they don't intend on using. The only reasonable conclusion one can come to is that they fully intend on doing everything they say they won't.
This week's "Break the Internet" protests are similar to the "Internet Slowdown Day" and "Internet Blackout Day", actions that took place in years past. As with those protests, the activist group Fight for the Future is behind the organising. The idea is also the same - companies and individuals demonstrate what the web would be like without net neutrality. In the past, companies such as Google, Twitter and Facebook have changed their logos, caused pages to load slowly, or thrown up fake pop-ups that scare users by asking for extra money to access the website. This has worked before, and floods of calls to politicians have curtailed legislation that would harm the internet. But fatigue has set in. Fewer big companies are making a stink, it's increasingly hard for the public to keep up with the latest threats, the FCC doesn't seem to care what anyone's opinion is, and the repeal seems inevitable.
That's where you come in. Fight for the Future has a website that helps you join in the protest and offers tips. It also asks Americans to write to their representatives. (Australians can also write to their MPs expressing concern about what is happening overseas, and that we don't want it to happen in here.) The effort will last for 48 hours starting on Tuesday, December 12.
There are a few ways to register your voice, such as changing your Facebook status to married and listing your partner as "net neutrality". But the most effective thing you can do is to tell corporations such as Apple, Amazon and Twitter to join Break the Internet. As of this moment, the list of big participants includes Imgur, Mozilla, Pinterest, Reddit, GitHub, Etsy, BitTorrent, Pornhub, Patreon, Funny Or Die, Speedtest, Fiverr, Cloudflare, Opera, Trello, the Happy Wheels game, DeviantArt, AnimeNewsNetwork and BoingBoing. Those are all big sites, but nothing like Facebook or Google. All of the biggest companies have previously participated, and are easily shamed into doing something. Go forth internet.
On Monday, some of the most iconic figures behind the internet signed an open letter to the FCC to inform its leaders that they have no idea how the internet works. People such as the father of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, and everyone's favourite Apple founder, Steve Wozniak, explained that the FCC's reasoning for a repeal of net neutrality is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of internet technology. They urged the FCC to cancel Thursday's vote.
Realistically, it looks like this is going to happen whether we like it or not. But if people make enough noise, there's always the possibility of Congress stepping in to fix former Verizon-lawyer and current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's dismissal of the public.