A full-page ad in today’s edition of Las Vegas Review Journal calls attention to disturbing similarities between FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and China’s State Internet Information Officer Chief Lu Wei in statements on restricting Internet freedoms. Wheeler is a featured speaker at the 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada on Wednesday January 6.
Under the headline “The Internet: Great Minds Think Alike,” the ad compares Lu Wei’s statement that a free and open Internet requires “rules” with Wheeler’s statement that the Internet needs a government “referee with a yardstick.” Protect Internet Freedom (PIF), a non-profit grassroots organization of 1.6 million members, purchased the ad.
“CES is a renowned gathering for technology innovators that rely on a free and open Internet. It is the ideal venue for FCC Chairman Wheeler to explain why he and Chief Lu Wei agree that individual’s Internet freedoms must be checked by a government appointed referee of the Internet,” said PIF Public Advocate Jerri Ann Henry.
PIF noted that the FCC’s new rules declaring the Internet a government regulated public utility open the floodgates for governments globally to push for more centralized Internet controls themselves. Practices that were once common only in oppressive regimes like China and Russia are now even spreading to Western democracies.
Recently corporate tech giants like Google, Twitter and others that strongly favored the FCC’s role as government “referee” to ostensibly protect a “free and open Internet,” have done a complete 180 in places like Germany, partnering with the government to delete content within 24 hours that the German government deems crosses the line. Under the German Constitution even speech that is considered “insulting” can be taken down.
“When it comes to the future of the Internet there are those who cynically argue that tighter government control somehow protects Internet freedom and openness, and then there are those millions of Americans who instinctively understand that government regulation of the Internet opens a Pandora’s box. Today it’s FCC regulations, tomorrow it’s FEC regulation of websites like the Drudge Report, and before we know it corporations and governments are partnering to delete content they deem merely “insulting.” We will not stand by as the U.S. swaps its role as the unapologetic protector of Internet freedom for one where unelected bureaucrats and safe-space social justice warriors patrol the Internet as self-appointed ‘referees.’”