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The FCC turns Twitter's argument for net neutrality against it

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The Federal Communications Commission is expected to end net neutrality on December 14th, and the deb
 
November 28 · Issue #35 · View online
The Interface
The Federal Communications Commission is expected to end net neutrality on December 14th, and the debate around it is intensifying. The Verge has been a leading voice of the technocratic mainstream here, arguing that an internet without fast lanes and content-based throttling breeds competition and new businesses
The Atlantic occupies a place of skepticism on the left, saying that if this is neutrality, then you can keep it: startups have not thrived under this regime, Ian Bogost writes, and the tech giants have only grown larger. (Counterpoints might include Lyft, Airbnb, Stripe, StitchFix, and Square.) Ben Thompson wrote today leaning from the right, arguing that the effects of regulations are unpredictable and thus require massive evidence of potential harm before the government weighs in.
Anyway, in a speech today in Washington DC, Verizon lobbyist turned FCC Chairman Ajit Pai aligned himself with … the liberals at the Atlantic
Pai said … tech giants could pose the greatest threat by discriminating against viewpoints on the internet. “They might cloak their advocacy in the public interest,” he said, “but the real interest of these internet giants is in using the regulatory process to cement their dominance in the internet economy.”
Well OK, but does have an example? He does:
Pai sought to make an example of Twitter. He specifically raised the fact that the company at one point prevented a Republican congresswoman from promoting a tweet about abortion, only to change its mind amid a public backlash.
“Now look: I love Twitter,” Pai began. “But let’s not kid ourselves; when it comes to a free and open Internet, Twitter is a part of the problem. The company has a viewpoint and uses that viewpoint to discriminate.”
“And unfortunately, Twitter is not an outlier,” Pai continued. “Indeed, despite all the talk, and all the fear, that broadband providers could decide what internet content consumers can see, recent experience shows that so-called edge providers are in fact deciding what content they see. These providers routinely block or discriminate against content they don’t like.”
Pai was talking of course about Marsha Blackburn, who is running for Senate in Tennessee. Twitter said it wouldn’t allow her to promote an inflammatory tweet, and now that has become part of the case against net neutrality. The fact that Twitter changed its mind a day later doesn’t seem to matter, and maybe it shouldn’t.
Still, this is the exact view you would expect a Verizon lobbyist to take. Right now some companies can discriminate based on content (Facebook, Twitter) and others can’t (Verizon, Comcast). Wouldn’t it be better if everyone could discriminate whenever they wanted, and let the market decide? 
Ultimately, though, Pai is undone by his disingenuousness. We may have less choice than we would like when it comes to search engines or social networks, but we still have far more alternatives than most Americans have when it comes to a choice of broadband provider. I can switch from Google to Bing; I can’t switch from Comcast to FiOS — not least because ISPs work actively, and effectively, to prevent municipalities from developing ISPs of their own.
Net neutrality as it exists today is a check, however imperfect, on the power of some deeply unscrupulous service providers. And I suspect we will miss it.

Democracy
These People Say Their Facebook Accounts Were Locked For Posting About Protests
Facebook and Twitter to give details of Russian-backed Brexit posts
Hard Questions: Are We Winning the War On Terrorism Online?
Takes
Social Platforms Promised A Level Playing Field For All. The Russian Trolls Showed That Was Never True.
Reality scores a win over the perverse drive to discredit honest reporting
Elsewhere
‘Rot in Hell’: One YouTube Star’s Fan Club Is Menacing Cleveland
Facebook, Alphabet shares hit fresh highs despite content issues
Discovery Leads $40 Million Round for Thrillist Owner Group Nine
Launches
Facebook prototypes Messenger Broadcast for businesses
And finally ..
Watch this before you send your next GIF
Talk to me
Questions? Comments? Services you wish were zero-rated on your current cell plan? casey@theverge.com 
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