Comcast tries to censor pro-net neutrality website calling for investigation of fake FCC comments potentially funded by cable lobbyPosted 11:06 EDT on May 23, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, May 23, 2017
Contact: Evan Greer, 978-852-6457, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fight for the Future received a cease and desist order from Comcast’s attorneys for our site Comcastroturf.com. Without net neutrality rules, Comcast could have censored the site outright.
Digital rights group Fight for the Future has received a cease and desist order from Comcast’s lawyers, claiming that Comcastroturf.com - a pro-net neutrality site encouraging Internet users to investigate an astroturfing campaign likely funded by the cable lobby - violates Comcast’s “valuable intellectual property.” The letter threatens legal action if the domain is not transferred to Comcast’s control.
“This is exactly why we need Title II net neutrality protections that ban blocking, throttling, and censorship,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, “If Ajit Pai’s plan is enacted, there would be nothing preventing Comcast from simply blocking sites like Comcastroturf.com that are critical of their corporate policies,” she added. “It also makes you wonder what Comcast is so afraid of? Are their lobbying dollars funding the astroturfing effort flooding the FCC with fake comments that we are encouraging Internet users to investigate?”
The legal notice can be viewed here. It claims that Comcastroturf.com violates the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and infringes on Comcast’s trademarks. Of course, these claims are legally baseless, since the site is clearly a form of First Amendment protected political speech and makes no attempt to impersonate Comcast.
(See the case “Bosley Medical Institute vs. Kremer” which held that sites critical of a company’s practices could not be considered trademark infringement.)
Comcastroturf.com encourages Internet users to search the Federal Communication Commission (FCC)’s docket to check if a fake comment was submitted using their name and address to attack Title II based net neutrality protections. It has been widely reported that more than 450,000 of these comments have been submitted to the FCC – and as a result of the site at Comcastroturf.com, Fight for the Future has heard from dozens of people who say that anti-net neutrality comments were submitted using their personal information without their permission. We have connected individuals with Attorneys Generals and have called for the FCC act immediately to investigate this potential fraud.
“Companies like Comcast have a long history of funding shady astroturfing operations like the one we are trying to expose with Comcastroturf.com, and also a long history of engaging in censorship,” said Greer, “this is a perfect example of why we need bright line net neutrality rules that protect our free speech online, and why we can’t just trust Internet Service Providers to behave when they’ve abused their power time and time again.”
Fight for the Future has no intention of taking down Comcastroturf.com, and would be happy to discuss the matter with Comcast in court.