On July 12, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google joined forces with nearly 80,000 other websites in an internet-wide protest against proposed changes to online laws. The ‘day of action’ saw the sites display a variety of eye-catching messages highlighting the importance of ‘net neutrality’ – a concept that could be under threat under the new data laws.
Earlier this year, the US communications regulator voted to change the current regulations on internet providers, removing some of the Obama-era rules protecting internet access. Net neutrality refers to the neutral stance internet providers have, until now, taken in regard to consumers’ online experience.
Should the current laws be removed, internet providers would be free to interfere with their customers’ online usage, charging consumers extra to access particular content, or even blocking certain sites entirely. Without these laws, internet providers would also be free to prioritise certain sites over others. This could lead to slower video content streaming, among other issues.
Should current laws be removed, internet providers would be free to interfere with their customers’ online usage, charging consumers extra to access particular content, or even blocking certain sites entirely
“Internet companies, innovative start-ups and millions of internet users depend on these common-sense protections that prevent blocking or throttling of internet traffic, segmenting the internet into paid fast lanes and slow lanes and other discriminatory practices,” read a Google blog post.
“Thanks in part to net neutrality, the open internet has grown to become an unrivalled source of choice, competition, innovation, free expression and opportunity. And it should stay that way.”
A host of online activists, free speech groups and librarians also joined the coalition of tech companies in showing their support for net neutrality. Greenpeace, the American Library Association and the American Civil Liberties Union were among the pressure groups and activists championing the cause on July 12, encouraging millions of followers to press their members of Congress on the issue. One supporter, the Writers Guild of America, called the removal of net neutrality a “war on the open internet”.
The day of coordinated online action was designed to draw public attention to the cause, and encourage internet users to stand up for their online rights. More than 5.6 million people have submitted complaints to the Federal Communications Commission in response to the proposed plans, and this number continues to rise. A second vote on the proposals is expected later this year.