Introduction United States of America has an incredibly rich historyof political movements.
Throughout history, a plethora of critical issues hasspurred various political movements. They differed on issues they focused on,support they garnered and some were more successful than others. Mostimportantly they all played a significant role in shaping American democracy.Political movements encourage debates on prominent issues and concerns betweengovernment and citizens, and has helped to mold Government laws, policies andregulations.
Today’s issues and concerns are no exception, and social movementin politics continue to be one of the driving force in American Politics and Democracy.At the beginning of this century a new social movement has emerged andis gaining momentum today, it is a pro-consumer movement to protect consumersrights for free, open and unbiased internet or Neworkt Neutrality. Literature ReviewSocial MovementDefinition. Social Movement defined as“loosely organized collections ofordinary people, workingoutside normal political channels, to get their voices heard by the public atlarge, the news media and leaders of major institutions, and government officials,in order to promote, resist, or undo some social change” (Greenberg, E, 2012, p 236) Characteristics. Social movements havecertain characteristics.
To begin with, ithelps citizens to expresstheir voices and influence policy makers. Furthermore, it is typicallygrassroots movement, that depends on many ordinary people to encourage othersand influence political officials to bring the desired change. In addition,people involved in social movement are usually affected or sympathize with theissue and feel very strong about the changing it. Also, it generally requires aconsiderable number of people to be involved and to have a belief that they canpersuade government to pass laws, regulations, etc. to make a difference.Moreover, social movements use a variety of conventional and unconventionaltactics, that can be dramatic and disruptive to bring attention to their cause.
Additionally, social movements frequently organize themselves into advocacy andinterest groups to further pursue their goals. (Greenberg, E, 2012, p 236-237)Focus. Social movement in politics can be focusedon a single issue, such as waror environment. They canintend to change government policy or regulation, such as wildlife protectionor business regulations.
Also, they can focus on extending rights to certaingroups, such as women, gay or disabled. Few of the major Social Movements thatshaped American Politics are: The Abolitionists, for ending slavery; Women’sSuffrage, for enabling women to vote; The Labor Movement, for protectingworking class people; The Civil Rights Movement, for ending segregation,discrimination and racism; Anti War Movements, for ending wars in Vietnam,Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. (Greenberg, E, 2012, p 238-239)Consumer Movement. Another well known socialmovement is a consumermovement. Consumermovement are an organized social movement that are lead by consumers, consumerorganizations and advocacy groups.
This groups work to protect consumersinterests, by educating consumers, pressing lawmakers to pass consumerprotection laws and protecting consumer rights from violation by the companies,organizations, government, etc. Since the early 1900, consumer movement haveadvocated for a variety of consumer laws and regulation such as food and drugsregulations, quality of services, packaging and labeling, misleadingadvertisement, etc. (Brobeck, S.& et al. 1997) Consumer Movement for Network Neutrality. With rise of innovativetechnology and related new productsand services, pro-consumer movement continue to work to protect the interest ofconsumers and influence government policies and regulations. At the beginningof this century a new social movement has emerged to protect consumers rightsfor free, open and unbiased internet or Network Neutrality. Internet, Network Neutrality andInternet Service ProvidersInternet and Network Neutrality.
Internet is one of themost valuable human innovation in technologyand it is a very powerful and a tremendously useful tool. For the past decade,internet became a big part of people daily lives and it is invaluable to oureducation, entertainment, communication, economy and democracy. Internet is adriving force behind the innovations, creativity, individual expression,political movements, social connections, business development, and so on. Fromit’s very beginning, the internet’s guiding and governing principle wasnon-discriminative access or Network Neutrality. It allows users to view anywebsite, to post anything they want, to choose what products to buy, and whatservices, website or applications to use. (Internet Association.
org N/A)Internet Service Providers (ISP) However, the InternetService Providers (ISP) are private for-profitcompanies and they have the ability and the incentives to interfere with users’access to internet and have a history of abusing the Network Neutrality. Thereare only a few common carriers in United States, who controls access tointernet: AT, Comcast, Cox, Verizon and Time Warner and they must beregulated by Government to preserve the Network Neutrality principles. (ACLU, 2010) Government (FCC) Regulations andPolicies 2005. In 2005, under public pressure the Federal CommunicationCommission (FCC) released Policy Statement:” New Principles Preserve andPromote the Open and Interconnected Nature of Public Internet” outlining that:”(1) consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of theirchoice; (2) consumers are entitled to run applications and services of theirchoice, subject to the needs of law enforcement; (3) consumers are entitled toconnect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network; and (4)consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application andservice providers, and content providers.” (FCC, 2005)2015. Furthermore, on June 12, 2015, FCCestablished rule to protect Net Neutrality and consumer rights for openinternet. The rule reclassified broadband ISPs as “common carriers,”imposing rules against discriminating against any internet traffic and providedthe government better control and authority over ISPs. Most importantly, therule prohibits ISP to interfere in anyway with what consumers can view or poston line, to slow down, limit or discriminate access to any data, to prioritizeinformation for fee, and to disclose practices, speed, fees, rates, and otherinformation to consumers.
(FCC,2015), (Consumers Union.org, 2017)2017. However, on December 14, 2017, the FCCvoted in favor to repealNetwork Neutrality rules.Now ISPs can speed up or slow down any services they like, they can blockwebsites and services, they can charge higher fees for access to certaininternet services, manipulate information consumer can access, things consumerscan buy, etc. As author of WashingtonPost article “The FCC just voted to repeal its net neutrality rules, in asweeping act of deregulation” noted: “For example, under the Obama-era rules,Verizon was not allowed to favor Yahoo and AOL, which it owns, by blockingGoogle or charging the search giant extra fees to connect to customers. Underthe new rules, that type of behavior would be legal, as long as Verizondisclosed it.” (Fung, B, 2017) DiscussionSocial Movement for Network NeutralityHow it started and who is involved? According to Greenberg,E.
S, 2012:” Social distress caused by economic, social, and technologicalchange helped create the conditions for the rise of most of the major socialmovements in American history.” Social movement for Network Neutrality is notan exception, and just as the other movements, it started as a response to ISPsattempt to control internet traffic in the early 2000. It includes ordinary internet users, consumerrights activists, free speech activists and civil organizations, all fightingfor an open internet. It grew over the years as internet use increaseddramatically and became an integral part of many citizens lives. For years,various organizations such as American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), InternetAssociation, Consumer Union, Popular Resistance and others, were advocating, conductingresearch, producing reports and mobilizing resources. The movement was enormousin 2014-2015, pressing government to pass regulation to protect open internet.
However, repealing Network Neutrality rules inDecember 2017, caused momentum in the movement, as millions of people gotinvolved. Internet users, politicians, celebrities, government officials,states attorney generals, civil leaders, prominent figures from varioustechnical and business fields, minority leaders, grass roots organizations,consumer and free speech advocates, various advocacy groups and press weightedin and joined the movement. What are they fighting for and why? According to the socialmovement for Network Neutrality, consumers have rights for unbiased and openinternet.
It is a consumer right that encourages innovation and competitionthat drives our economy “Without these rules, your internet provider can chargea toll for any website it chooses. The biggest companies can most likely affordthese new costs, but smaller companies could be left out in the cold, and thatfundamentally changes the level playing field of the internet as we’ve knownit. When companies introduce new tolls to a system like internet service,history has shown it typically leads to higher prices for consumers” (Consumers Union.
org, 2017)But most importantly, Network Neutrality iscitizens right for free speech. The First Amendment right is one of thefundamentals of our democracy and internet is just like television and print,it is a venue for freedom of speech and just like television and print, theinternet should be protected by the First Amendment. Therefore, maintaining the status quo is notan option. In his commentary to CNN “Netneutrality is foremost free speech issue of our time”, Senator Al Franklen (D,Min) noted that “Net neutrality” sounds arcane, but it’s fundamental tofree speech…. Net neutrality may sound like a technical issue, but it’s the keyto preserving the internet as we know it — and it’s the most important FirstAmendment issue of our time” (Franken,Al, 2010) Movement Strategies and Tactics: Various players in Social Movement for NetworkNeutrality use several conventional and unconventional tactics to advance theirgoals. To market themselves to the general public, the movement activistsuse publicity and enlisted support from the inventor of the web TimBerners-Lee, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, many celebrities, lawmakers,former FCC commissioners, politicians, public figures, and others who speakpublicly on the issue. Furthermore, protesters and activists use manypersuasive messages to get public attention: “Free Internet=Freedom of Speech”,“Equal Access to All”, “Net Neutrality is Freedom of Speech”, “Save theInternet”, “Never going to give up on Net Neutrality”, etc. Likewise, themovement has clearly identified Internet Services Provider and major companieslike Verizon, Cox, etc.
as the antagonists of the movement, thus making thegeneral population aware that their services will be affected. Additionally, new websites likeBattleforthenet.com, Savetheinternet.com, etc. were established to educateabout Network Neutrality, advocate against the ruling and persuade citizens totake actions.To mold public opinion in their favor social movements forNetwork Neutrality use social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, tobring awareness to the issue, to call for actions and to condemn the governmentregulation.
For example, months before and since the repeal, #NetNeutralitytrended and continues to trend on Twitter. Many Facebook discussion groups wereformed to connect concerned citizens to discuss the issue. Likewise, thecoalitions websites post detailed explanation, reports and polls statistic,educating consumers on their rights and consequences of inaction. To influence government decision-makers, activists made hundredsof thousands of calls to congress and millions expressed their opinion to theirstate stakeholders, governors, congress representatives, etc. According toFreepress.net, in the first week after the repeal was passes citizens have madeover 600,000 calls to Congress to urge lawmakers to condemn the repeal.Hundreds of protests were organized around the country. Over 20 millionweighted on the repeal with 98.
5% supporting keeping the Network NeutralityRules. (Kroin, 2017) Furthermore, Popular Resistance.org reported that“University of Maryland poll finding 83% support for the Internet being openand equal to all. There was a record number of comments to the FCC on thisissue over the summer. More than 1.
2 million calls and 12.5 million emails wentinto Congress through the Battlefornet coalition site, and more than 700protests were held across the country for net neutrality on December 7.”(Zeese, K & Flower, M, 2017)In addition, hundreds of civil, grassroots andother civil organizations put out and file petitions to Protect Net Neutrality.Electronic Frontier Foundation, CREDO action, CHANGE.org, American CivilLiberties Union and many others still collecting the signatures on theirpetitions.
Violence and disruption. In addition, according tonews outlets, the battle for Net Neutrality already became violent. First, theanonymous bomb threat delayed the voting. Then after the repeal, varioushacking group posted threats and members of congress who supported the petitionand FCC Chair Ajit Pai had received thousand of death treats.
He acknowledgedthat he and his family have been continuously harassed. “Going back to May, hesaid, many public comments about the FCC proposal have targeted himpersonally—some attacking his ethnic background, such as calling for him to be“deported” to India. More recently, signs were placed near his home telling hischildren: “Dad murdered democracy.”” Likewise, according too USA today “The chairman of the FederalCommunications Commission reportedly cancelled plans to attend this year’sConsumer Electronics Show because of death threats.” (Lucas, F, 2017), (Molina, B, 2018) Advantages and Disadvantages of Tactics The numerous tactics used by various socialmovements have various levels of effectiveness. One of the single mosteffective tactics used in the fight for Network Neutrality is calling andcomplaining to your elected official. The reason that it is one of the mostefficient strategy is because the staff in a congressman office must answer thecall. Moreover, the topic and number of the calls are recorded and submitted tothe representative, so they know exactly what people have been calling inabout.
As a matter of fact, after theFCC repeal the Network Neutrality rules, congress staff where unable to keep upwith the millions of calls they received. The congressional representatives areelected every two years and therefore they must listen to their constituenciesif they hope to get re-elected. Likewise, signing the petition to President,Senator, or member of Congress is another effective way to raise concerns. Themain advantage is that it reaches a wider population as e-petition arewidespread and are easy to sign. Another advantage is, it is a verycost-effective strategy and in brief period, movement activists can persuademany people to sign the petition. Another example, Social media like Facebook andTwitter, and sending e-mails. The advantages are that those posts, and messagesensures direct dialogue and ongoing discussion with political leader, as wellas feedback. The disadvantage is that because social media is relatively new,we don’t really know how it affects the political decisions.
Moreover, using celebrities or permanent figuresspeaking out on the movement behalf have its advantages and disadvantages.Although, it can bring a lot of publicity and support from people who like oradmire that celebrity, but it will be ineffective to persuade people who areindifferent or dislike them. Last, but not least, violence is never the answerand should be condemned. The way it has been used to install the fear, is avery inefficient mean of creating any meaningful political change. It allowsthe government to label movement activists as criminals and can be used toinvalidate movement point of view. Furthermore, according to statistic publishedin the book “Why Civil Resistance Works” only one third of violent social movementsget what they are fighting for, compared to three fourth of non-violent movements.
(Chenoweth, E &.Stephan, M, 2011) ConclusionThroughout history, United States has had manypolitical movements protecting consumer rights. This century has seen themainstream rise of the internet and development of related modern technologies,services and product and companies who tries to violate consumer rights. Whichhas given rise to a new social movement meant to protect an unbiased internetrules known as Network Neutrality. Many ordinary consumers, businesses,grassroot organizations, advocacy groups, pro-consumer organizations and othersadvocated and worked tirelessly to protect consumer rights for free and openinternet, and ensure freedom of speech and press.Net Neutrality Regulation havepassed under President Obama administration, however, on December 14th, 2017,The Federal Communications Commission have voted to overturn that regulation.Consumers are outraged by this decision and many citizens, civil groups,organizations, businesses, political leaders and other have condemned FCCdecision and mobilizing their resources, engaging in advocacy, posting thethreats, rising the awareness, campaigning to lawmakers to overturn the rulingand to protect the consumer rights for Network Neutrality and Freedom ofSpeech, becoming one of the biggest Social Movements of Modern Days.