Shouting “hey, look over there!” might not be a novel tactic, but it’s all that FCC chairman Ajit Pai really has left at this point. Under fire for ignoring millions of pro-net-neutrality comments and hindering the investigation into an army of anti-net-neutrality bots, Pai chose instead to go on the attack today.
At an event in Washington D.C. Tuesday attended by Recode, Pai painted his quest to destroy net neutrality in a very different light, saying that the telecoms oligopoly isn’t the real threat — it’s Twitter, Facebook, and Cher that you have to worry about.
“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.” Pai was complaining because big internet companies, including Google and Twitter, have been vocally in favor of net neutrality. He also reportedly took aim at “Hollywood celebrities, whose large online followings give them out-sized influence in shaping the public debate.”
While Pai is correct that internet giants will need careful regulation in the future, writing off their support of net neutrality because of possible future concerns is misguided. Moreover, he walked a careful line, seeming to criticize Twitter’s recent moves to ban or un-verify the accounts of alt-right personalities — actions that many users agree with. “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,” Pai told attendees.
It’s a classic attempt to reframe an argument by ignoring Pai’s own arguments, and instead attacking the most vocal supporters of net neutrality on their perceived flaws. Pai seems to be forgetting that an overwhelming majority of real public comments to the FCC were in favor of net neutrality; it’s not just Hollywood celebrities and internet companies fighting back on this one.