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Net Neutrality might be gone, but it is not forgotten. During the Trump era, the FCC finally voted to overturn the Net Neutrality rules of the Obama administration, but now it looks like turnabout is fair play. Rumors are growing that the Biden administration might be making a move to bring back Net Neutrality in the interest of providing a fair, non-discriminatory Internet for everyone.
Net Neutrality has a fake bot problem
Already, New York Attorney General Letitia James has weighed in on the matter, claiming that millions of comments supporting the overturn of Net Neutrality back in 2017 might have been generated entirely by fake accounts and bots. Before the FCC voted to overturn Net Neutrality in 2018, the rule-making body called for public commentary on the issue, largely to see what everyday people had to say on the matter. Well, apparently, the big broadband providers who had the most to lose took swift action to ensure that they got in front of the issue. They formed a huge lobbying organization called Broadband for America and spent millions of dollars pushing the decision to overturn Net Neutrality.
It now turns out that the large broadband providers – among them, AT&T, Charter and Comcast – tried to do this in a way that was largely deceptive. They essentially used a huge pot of money to create fake bots and fake accounts to give the appearance that real, everyday Americans were weighing in on the matter. But, according to New York AG James, they went way too far. By some estimates, 18 million of the 22 million comments were fake. And there was one enterprising college student in California who posted millions of comments simply by setting up fake aliases and fake accounts. It’s all very shady, and potentially illegal. And as New York AG James warned, “Illegal schemes are unacceptable.”
You can see where all this is going – the whole premise that Net Neutrality should be overturned appears to have been founded on nothing. There was no popular upswell of support to overturn Net Neutrality back in 2017. There were not millions of concerned people around the nation weighing in on the matter. There was no mandate for the FCC to do anything. It was all scripted, coordinated and planned by the big broadband giants.
The case for bringing back Net Neutrality
So, the big question becomes whether or not the Biden-era FCC should bring back Net Neutrality. The Trump administration said that Net Neutrality rules were unnecessary, heavy-handed regulations that destroyed free market incentives for large corporations to do the right thing. And they said that all the fears about “discrimination” and lucrative, “pay to play” schemes that disadvantaged certain content providers were largely overblown. Were they right?
It has only been three years since the overturn of Net Neutrality, so it might still be too early to answer that question. But what we can all agree on is that fake bot campaigns are not just ethically wrong, they are also illegal. You can’t manipulate public opinion using secretive campaign money. And you shouldn’t be able to influence legislators and rule makers by giving the appearance that public sentiment is hugely on one side. That’s anti-democratic and frankly, un-American.