Net neutrality activists just took over Reddit with protest posts
If you visit the reddit.com home page today expecting to see the usual mix of news stories and entertaining cat memes, you're likely to see something very different: a wall of posts naming and shaming members of Congress—mostly Republicans—who have taken money from the telecommunications industry.
"This is my Senator, Ron Johnson," reads the headline for the top post when we checked reddit.com on Friday afternoon. "He sold me, my fellow Wisconsinites, and this nation, to the telecom lobby for the price of $123,652."
Posts further down shame John McCain (R-AZ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Todd Young (R-IN), and other members of Congress using virtually identical language.
It's a clever campaign because most people will assume these senators "sold me out" by voting against network neutrality. But Congress hasn't voted on net neutrality recently. Rather, the targets of the protest appear to come from an article in the Verge detailing campaign contributions to members who voted to overturn a separate FCC regulation that protects customer privacy.
Of course, many of the same Republican senators who voted to reverse the FCC's privacy protections have also defended Ajit Pai's proposal to roll back network neutrality rules. Rubio, for example, has been sending letters to constituents saying that the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order "effectively transferred power from ISPs to the federal government and threatened to overregulate the Internet in a way that would make it more expensive for consumers, less innovative and less competitive."
The campaign is likely to be particularly effective because each post is hosted in a subreddit for the state where the member of Congress serves. The post attacking Sen. John Thune (R-SD), for example, was in the /r/SouthDakota subreddit, where thousands of his constituents go to access news about their state.
Reddit user ChrisTahoe, who created the anti-Thune post, told Ars that he created his post after seeing several other posts like it on Reddit's home page.
"I opened the Reddit app and noticed a couple posts with pictures of senators and similar wording about getting bought out by Telecoms," he told Ars in a private message. "I remembered I read The Verge article that laid out what each senator and representative got paid, and knew my senator, John Thune, had been paid a hefty sum compared to most others.
"My post was completely unoriginal," he added. "But if you look at my post history, you’ll see I have spoken to Thune personally about this issue in the past at a deployment ceremony, and disliked his response. So this opportunity to put him on blast presented itself and I took it."
So far, there's been little sign that Congress is ready to enact new network neutrality legislation—either protecting network neutrality rules or repealing them. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) has proposed compromise legislation that would enshrine network neutrality into law. But Democrats have mostly rejected Thune's proposal, arguing that it doesn't leave the FCC enough flexibility to effectively protect the open Internet over the long run.