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Cable Companies Use Astroturfing To Fight Net Neutrality 142

An anonymous reader sends a report from Vice which alleges that a trade group for internet service providers is building support for its crusade against net neutrality by funding opinion pieces and letters that masquerade as legitimate public sentiment. 'A disclosure obtained by VICE from the National Cable and Telecom Association (NCTA), a trade group for ISPs, shows that the bulk of Broadband for America's recent $3.5 million budget is funded through a $2 million donation from NCTA. Last month, Broadband for America wrote a letter to the FCC bluntly demanding that the agency "categorically reject" any effort toward designating broadband as a public utility. It wasn't signed by any internet consumer advocates, as the Sununu-Ford letter suggests. The signatures on the letter reads like a who's who of ISP industry presidents and CEOs, including AT&T's Randall Stephenson, Cox Communications' Patrick Esser, NCTA president (and former FCC commissioner) Michael Powell, Verizon's Lowell McAdam, and Comcast's Brian Roberts. Notably, Broadband for America's most recent tax filing shows that it retained the DCI Group, an infamous lobbying firm that specializes in creating fake citizen groups on behalf of corporate campaigns.'
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Cable Companies Use Astroturfing To Fight Net Neutrality

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  • Money in Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jawnn ( 445279 ) on Friday June 06, 2014 @09:01AM (#47178575)
    A classic case of corporate interests spending lavishly to buy influence on issues where their interests run counter to those of the public at large. Who was the tool here last week who insisted that this was not a problem?
  • They all do this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rabbin ( 2700077 ) on Friday June 06, 2014 @09:09AM (#47178621)
    PR in the US is often just propaganda. It is another avenue through which wealth can be used to exert undue influence over policy by shaping public opinion, deceiving, astroturfing, etc etc. It is justified under Free Speech, but there is no concern for equality: if you have more money, your voice (or the people you pay to spread "your voice") is much more likely affect change. In my opinion, this is wrong.

    I recommend reading the book Deadly Spin by Wendell Potter which shows just how insidious this practice is. The author used to be a top PR executive at several insurance companies but "found his conscience" and is speaking out against it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 06, 2014 @09:29AM (#47178741)

    ... fake citizen groups ...

    It is government of the [common] people, by the [fake] people, for the [rich] people. Sounds legit.

  • by nhstar ( 452291 ) on Friday June 06, 2014 @09:37AM (#47178823)

    Lately I find that, more and more, the mentality is "Either you're with us, or you're EVIL!" and this is just proof of that... Instead of presenting a divergent view, it's easier to plaster such organizations with hate and malicious intent, forgetting that the corporations are only doing what they're chartered to do: using every resource to increase wealth for their share-holders.

    I'm not advocating that this is the way it should be, just stating that, legally, this is the way that it is. Corporations aren't ~allowed~ to consider "the greater good" over that profit, so long as they're not doing greater harm. And I mean actual harm, not just perceived or "being kept down by the man" harm.


  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Friday June 06, 2014 @09:56AM (#47178983)

    Perhaps just mandate disclosure of major financial supporters? Speak all you want, but be required to have 'this campaign funded by' in small print at the bottom of the advert.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 06, 2014 @10:04AM (#47179047)

    The segregated South was progressive? LOL.

    Nah, feeling superior to an entire half of a nation simply because of where they are located, pretending like they are all one homogeneous block who all think and feel the same way, looking down on them, then patting yourself on the back for how amazingly progressive and unbiased you are is so much better.

    You're one of those lemmings who needs the notion of "protected groups" to define for you how you should feel and about whom you should feel it. You really have no true understanding of your own of what prejudice really is and why it's wrong, because you are obviously eager to apply your own brand of prejudice against anyone not previously defined for you as a "protected group". That is called identity politics and politicians love it because it makes divide-and-conquer so easy. It's practically a vote factory! And here you are, enabling and embracing it, just so you can feel like your own particular bigotry is legitimate. Disgusting.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 06, 2014 @10:07AM (#47179075)

    What I don't understand is that when a company lies on its ads, it gets fined, but when it lies via other means, nothing gets done, and it's even considered free speech by some. Why? It's all the same to me. There should be no free speech for companies.

  • by stenvar ( 2789879 ) on Friday June 06, 2014 @10:08AM (#47179083)

    Attaching the former is disingenuous, as it mischaracterizes the organisation as being some kind of collective of consumer-oriented institutes

    Yes, it's "disingenuous", but it's not Broadband for America's disingenuity because they didn't write that; that's how the SFGate byline characterizes BFA, so you should blame SFGate.

    What do you suggest we do to fix this misinformation?

    Shut down SFGate or the Hearst Corporation? Nuke all of SF from orbit ("it's the only way to be sure")? Create a politburo or a Minitruth? I dunno, you tell me what you're willing to do in the name of "fixing misinformation".

    Personally, I'd do nothing. Although SFGate writes a lot of nonsense, and lots of people (hello there) seem to be eating up that nonsense, ultimately, I believe in free speech, including the ability of people to counter nonsense spewed by big corporate entities like the Hearst Corporation (SFGate).

  • by stenvar ( 2789879 ) on Friday June 06, 2014 @10:41AM (#47179387)

    It's really quite easy - ban money from politics. No politician can ever earn money privately.

    We live in a representative democracy. Why would I want people like that representing me?

    The media has to actually engage in journalism and cover issues with the minimum possible level of bias - any failures result in censure or worse

    I think you have just perfectly characterized how the Soviet Union worked.

    The world weeps for the US - other developed countries have their issues with their political systems, but most seem to be able to keep this separation far better than in the US.

    Well, thankfully I don't have to live in those "other developed countries".

  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Friday June 06, 2014 @12:42PM (#47180657)

    What about citizens grouping together, pooling their money, and then using the pooled money to speak? What organizational form should that take, if not a corporation (usually not-for-profit)?

    Let's turn that around for a minute: Why should such groups get the privileged status afforded by incorporation, including things like limited liability and favorable tax treatment?

    If all the groups advocating for this "organized" free speech were general partnerships [] where each member was actually responsible for the group's actions and kept on a level playing field with individuals, that would be one thing. But that's not what's going on here! Instead, the assholes who control these groups want special treatment that places them above individual citizens.

  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Friday June 06, 2014 @12:50PM (#47180741)

    That's how it already works for individuals! In fact, that's exactly why these SuperPACs and whatnot exist: so that the people who control them can gain an unfair advantage over Joe Schmuck who has to stand accountable for his political speech.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 06, 2014 @12:55PM (#47180791)

    Well, thankfully I don't have to live in those "other developed countries".

    You are exactly the type of underinformed, opinionated American that gives the rest of us a bad name.

    Having lived for some time in Germany and England, and travelled throughout most of Europe and Asia, I can say with some experience that there are numerous places much better off than the United States when it comes down to income, healthcare, quality of living, and the ease with which you can start an company.

    Let me repeat that: and the ease with which you can start a company.

    It is an ugly American myth that it is "harder to start a company" in (insert non-US country here). That may be true in some places, but it is demonstrably not true in much of Europe and Canada. In fact, people in the US often find it hard to leave their jobs in order to create a startup because they lose their health insurance and have to buy privately or do without. This has been mitigated to some degree by Obamacare, but it is still an issue that does not plague entrepreneurs in the UK or Germany. Regulations are similar, taxes are much simpler there (Particularly sales tax! Try calculating sales tax for orders taken in one of the fifty states, or one of the dozens of regions of New York State where the rate varies from county to county and in some cases town to town), and barriers to entry are comparable to the US.

    The US is a nice enough place to live, if you're priveleged to have an upper-middle or beter income, better-than-average health insurance provided at no cost by your employer, and not live in an isolated or blighted area, but it is by no means as nice as vast swathes of Europe and some parts of Asia.

    The reason for this is that those areas are much better governed, because they have sane political climates ensured by a limit of campaign funding and controls to prevent people like the Koch brothers and Corporate interests from buying elections wholesale, which in turn limits the amount of corporate whoring their leaders can engage in. Unlike the US, where the Supreme Court has sold out its democracy in Citizen's United like a cheap whore turning tricks on Saturday night.

Civilization, as we know it, will end sometime this evening. See SYSNOTE tomorrow for more information.