Net neutrality advocates frequently warn about the perils of internet service providers (ISPs) censoring the internet yet remain remarkably silent when Cloudflare, Google, and other companies censor free speech.
Recently, liberal tech companies such as GoDaddy, Google, and Cloudflare declared war on free speech, vowing to scrub the internet of “hate speech.”
GoDaddy decided to remove the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer from their web hosting, and Google decided to remove the white supremacist site from servers as well. Cloudflare also discontinued its service, even though they previously stated that they would defend their right to provide their services to ISIS-related websites.
Google removed Gab.ai, a content-neutral platform committed to free speech for everyone, from their Google Play app ecosystem for promoting “hate speech.”
These Silicon Valley companies do not see the irony in their assault on free speech, considering that these companies have repeatedly suggested that removing net neutrality would allow ISPs such as Comcast or Verizon to block and discriminate websites and services. Google, Cloudflare, and GoDaddy blocked these websites, in essence, violating the neutrality of the Internet.
Net neutrality passed under former Democrat Tom Wheeler’s FCC in 2010. The rule, known as the Open Internet Order, reclassified the internet as a public monopoly. Critics chided the rule, stating that it would diminish the freedom of the internet. Proponents argue that the regulations prevent Internet service providers from discriminating against content providers; however, net neutrality advocates often ignore the peril of tech companies like Google, GoDaddy, and Cloudflare becoming the policemen of the internet.
Google has served as a strong supporter of net neutrality and argued that if FCC Chairman Ajit Pai were to remove those internet regulations, then Comcast and Verizon can censor the internet however they choose. In one of Google’s statements they argued, “If Internet access providers can block some services and cut special deals that prioritize some companies’ content over others, that would threaten the innovation that makes the Internet awesome.”
Cloudflare also issued a statement of support for the net neutrality Day of Action earlier this summer. Cloudflare said, “Comcast, or other large ISPs, could likely extract tolls from a company like ours if they threatened to rate limit or outright block their customers from reaching our network.”
GoDaddy board director Blake Irving said, “In 2015, the tech industry and millions of individuals fought to legally protect the internet from fast lanes and slow lanes, guaranteeing an open, unrestricted internet that treated all data neutrally — not favoring big business over small.”
All of these companies contend that they can and should block content and services and that ISPs cannot choose how to operate their networks.
Harold Furchtgott-Roth, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, noted, “If they were broadband Internet access service providers, GoDaddy, Google, and Scaleway would be prohibited by current federal law from blocking access to Daily Stormer. But none of these entities meets the FCC’s technical definition of a ‘broadband Internet access service provider.’ Instead each of these entities has the power and the discretion to block Internet content that it dislikes. That discretion, however, is difficult to exercise.”
These companies have all decided to censor free speech when they have frequently championed free speech and the openness of the Internet when they have railed against what would allegedly happen if the FCC were to remove net neutrality.
Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince decided to suspend web hosting for the the Daily Stormer because “I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet.”
Prince added, “My rationale for making this decision was simple: the people behind the Daily Stormer are assholes and I’d had enough.”
The Cloudflare executive even admitted that his decision was “dangerous,” violating the core principle of free speech on the internet.
In an email to his employees, Prince wanted to reassure his employees that he did not set a “precedent.” He also admitted, “The right answer is for us to be consistently content neutral.”
The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) decried these companies’ crackdown on free speech.
EFF said in a statement, “Protecting free speech is not something we do because we agree with all of the speech that gets protected. We do it because we believe that no one—not the government and not private commercial enterprises—should decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t.”
“We strongly believe that what GoDaddy, Google, and Cloudflare did here was dangerous,” the EFF explained.
Perhaps these Silicon Valley companies do not truly support a free and open Intent free of censorship. FCC Chairman Pai, American Commitment President Phil Kerpen, and other advocates of free speech contend that liberals might have ulterior motives for supporting net neutrality.
Robert McChesney, the founder of Free Press, said that his group’s wish is for the government to monopolize the Internet. Pai revealed that McChesney once openly bragged about taking over the Internet. McChesney said, “At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to eliminate the telephone and cable companies. We are not at that point yet. But, the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”
Robert McChesney even said, “In the end, there is no real answer but to remove brick by brick the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles.”
To put McChesney’s influence on net neutrality in context, he was cited 46 times in the Obama net neutrality order.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai explained in a previous exclusive interview with Breitbart News that many liberal organizations, such as Free Press, and government officials hold disdain for free speech.
Chairman Pai pointed out, “With respect to that particular special interest, he is still on the board, and he and another member of the board did, in fact, make a statement during the Obama administration that he would like the government to get more involved. They do ultimately see the government as the solution for all ills, the point I’m simply making is that the government generally does not do a good job of preserving freedom on a dynamic platform like the internet. Two, the very people who claim that they want net neutrality to preserve free speech on the internet are themselves fundamentally hostile to the basic First Amendment freedoms that have allowed people across the political spectrum to express their views. I think we need to be very clear-eyed about what some of these ideological motivations are.”
Pai concluded, “It’s hard to predict, although the very same people that want the government to regulate the internet and they are fundamentally hostile to free speech in a variety of different ways. They want unpopular views to be censored online; they don’t stand up to the bullies on college campuses who even violently of late resist against people, including Berkeley which is ironic that it was supposedly the birth of the free speech movement. There are some members of government who want to regulate online platforms, I mentioned in the speech that some of the Federal Election Commission members, for instance, want to restrict political speech and regulate online platforms like the Drudge Report. It seems the worst thing we want is to restrict that core value of the First Amendment to discuss political issues and if anything, else that’s exactly what the Founders had in mind when they enshrined the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, they want people to express themselves in terms of political opinions.”