AT&T Appears Committed To Being Comically Hypocritical On Section 230

from the not-helping dept

Telecom giants like Comcast and AT&T have spent the last three or four years pushing (quite successfully) for massive deregulation of their own monopolies, while pushing for significant new regulation of the Silicon Valley giants, whose ad revenues they've coveted for decades. As such, it wasn't surprising to see AT&T come out with an incredibly dumb blog post last August throwing its full support behind Trump's legally dubious and hugely problematic executive order targeting social media giants and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law integral to protecting speech online.

In it AT&T, a company that just got done having a ten year long toddler moment about how the FCC's attempt to apply some fairly modest oversight of telecom giants was "government run amok," pivots to support having the FCC regulate social media -- despite having no authority to actually do so. Again, AT&T isn't operating in good faith here; the company is simply looking to make life more difficult for Silicon Valley competitors whose ad revenues the telecom giant has always had a weird obsession with. Mike did a an excellent post breaking down the particulars of AT&T's inconsistent arguments.

Granted, AT&T's dodgy arguments have been (not at all coincidentally) perfectly mirrored by the painfully inconsistent arguments of FCC Commissioners like Brendan Carr, who spent the entirety of of the Trump administration acting as an AT&T rubber stamp in human form. Not long ago, Carr tried to use AT&T's bad faith commentary to suggest there was some "growing consensus" that 230 needs to be "reformed" (read: dismantled for no coherent reason):

But there was no consensus. In large part because most sensible people seem to realize the assault on 230 is being driven by a Trumpist GOP whose only real goal is to punish social media platforms for finally taking disinformation and hate speech (cornerstones of the Trump movement) seriously. With Trump's election loss and a shift in makeup at the FCC, the plan to have Trump BFFs Carr and Simington attack Section 230 at the FCC is dead as a doornail. AT&T, however, continued to offer up its two cents at this week's AT&T Policy forum, with CEO John Stankey often stumbling into what felt like satire:

Yes that's AT&T, a company that routinely and repeatedly uses any dirty tactic it can find to disadvantage competitors, giving advice on how to avoid having companies disadvantage competitors. It should be fairly clear that AT&T's motivations in supporting the attack on Section 230 aren't being conducted in good faith. Especially after AT&T got caught using astroturf to try and generate bogus "support" for the effort. Again, what AT&T wants is the Congressional focus off of its broadband monopoly, and on competitors whose video ad revenues it wants to elbow in on. By any measure, it's been a smashing success.

Granted Section 230 wasn't the only subject tackled in bad faith at AT&T's latest policy forum. The company, literally the week after it saw nationwide press attention because a 90 year old had to take out an $10,000 Wall Street Journal ad just to get his shitty AT&T DSL line upgraded, also threw out some platitudes about how its broadband ideologies are dedicated to the "social good":

That's probably going to be a surprise to the countless marginalized communities that have been complaining for years about how AT&T refuses to upgrade low-income and minority communities (aka "redlining") to fiber. AT&T's love of "social good" is also likely a surprise to California regulators, who just this week found the company has a 10 year history of neglecting its infrastructure while increasingly imposing ever skyward monopolistic rates.

There's a lot of things AT&T could chime in on that it has ample expertise in. How to cozy up to law enforcement and intelligence agencies to dodge anything resembling accountability, for example. Or perhaps how to engage in sleazy astorturfing and the use of fake and dead people to generate bogus support for bad policy. Or perhaps some nice insight on how to crush competition, monopolize a US business sector, then lobby state and federal lawmakers into pretending that's not happening? Or hey, maybe a panel on how to ghost write shitty, terrible state-level legislation?

But when it comes like stuff like healthy competition, level playing fields, integral laws like 230, or much of anything else, taking policy advice from AT&T is like turning to Jeffrey Dahmer for lessons in dinnertime etiquette.

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Filed Under: broadband, competition, john stankey, section 230
Companies: at&t


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2021 @ 6:52am

    I don't think that mean what they think it means

    "ensure platforms aren’t favoring their own services over competitors"

    I think they meant to say Service Providers instead of Platforms and "net neutrality" instead if section 230.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2021 @ 7:20am

    You are right, but how many nontechnical people will know the difference?

    Or even technical people in other fields?

    ATT expects to get away with it because, like, "99% of the population doesn't know what a rootkit is".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 Mar 2021 @ 8:13am

      Re:

      How many more know its all fscked, but have given up that they can cause any change?
      Being sold out over and over for corporate interests is just the way it is & no one has time to try and fight that its always been that way.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 Mar 2021 @ 7:20am

    A sandwich is a sandwich, but a manwich is a meal.

    • Jeffrey Dahmer

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2021 @ 8:28am

    Blame the Democrats for this crap in the first place for their insistence that tech companies can manage themselves. People are starting to wake up to the fact that politicians don't have their best interests at heart and only look out for their own interests.

    They're only interested in setting up guaranteed campaign contributions for future re-election campaigns. Section 230 should never have been a part of the CDA where "tech companies can do whatever they want and use Section 230 as an all encompanying shield".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 1 Mar 2021 @ 8:34am

      Re:

      Section 230 was written by Ron Wyden, a Democrat (who is now a Senator), and Chris Cox, a Republican (who went on to be SEC Chairman in W’s second term). Also, Section 230 passed the house virtually unanimously with only four votes against it (even Lindsey Graham voted for it).

      Solely blaming Dems for Section 230 is more ludicrous than the fastest speed in Spaceballs.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2021 @ 8:45am

      Re:

      “Blame the democrats”

      That literally the only thing republicans do since they are terrorist group now
      They even put out little videos with speech’s of how they are persecuted and must destroy all the enemies of trump so they can get rewarded from him and Jesus lol

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2021 @ 10:10am

      Re:

      "Blame the Democrats for this crap in the first place for their insistence that tech companies can manage themselves."

      I recall the free market laissez-faire capitalists claiming that industry was self regulating. Although there are some Democrats, most of the anti-regulation types are GOP.

      "People are starting to wake up to the fact that politicians don't have their best interests at heart and only look out for their own interests."

      I think that comes with age/experience although some never see politics for what it is.

      "all encompanying shield"

      Dids you mean encompassing?

      btw, not all politicians art like that, just most of them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 1 Mar 2021 @ 11:06am

        Re: Re:

        I recall the free market laissez-faire capitalists claiming that industry was self regulating. Although there are some Democrats, most of the anti-regulation types are GOP.

        They'd certainly like people to think that anyway, but as actions like this show they're only anti-regulation when they think it will benefit them and will change their tune to cheering on 'government tyranny' the second the 'free market' doesn't result in the outcome they want.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2021 @ 1:44pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Agreed. And I like how they avoid discussing free market failures as if they never happen .. Texas energy cough cough.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 1 Mar 2021 @ 11:06am

      Republicans have been the political party complaining, at great length and through multiple outlets, about censorship and being silenced by “Big Tech”. Republicans have been the group whining, without any evidence to back them up, about an anti-conservative bias from companies such as Facebook and Twitter — companies known to have bent over backwards for the sake of making conservatives less angry. Republicans are the ones who have been talking, openly and without shame, about revoking 230 to compel social media services into hosting speech they would otherwise not host.

      Show me where an equal number of Democrats are making similar claims, and I might take you seriously. Until then: Your joke ain’t funny, man.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JMT (profile), 1 Mar 2021 @ 12:23pm

      Re:

      "Blame the Democrats for this crap in the first place for their insistence that tech companies can manage themselves."

      This is almost comical ignorance of the history of the Internet and S230.

      "People are starting to wake up to the fact that politicians don't have their best interests at heart and only look out for their own interests."

      You can't seriously think that people are only just starting to feel that way.

      "Section 230 should never have been a part of the CDA where "tech companies can do whatever they want and use Section 230 as an all encompanying shield"."

      Again, this is just a complete lack of understanding of what S230 does. It protects ALL WEBSITES with user generated content, not 'tech companies'. It does not allow anybody to do whatever they want or provide an all encompassing shield, it's allows exactly what the 1st Amendment allows and does not protect against illegal acts.

      Anybody spending five minutes on Wikipedia, or maybe even reading anything written about it by the bipartisan authors, would have a pretty decent understanding of S230. If fact this stuff is so simple to understand that I have given up thinking most anti-S230 people really don't understand this, and are in fact just making self-serving, bad-faith arguments.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 2 Mar 2021 @ 2:10am

        Re: Re:

        "...this stuff is so simple to understand that I have given up thinking most anti-S230 people really don't understand this, and are in fact just making self-serving, bad-faith arguments."

        Well, the capitol assault did, in fact, adequately demonstrate that a great many from the alt-right make chimpanzees look like rocket scientists. I'm not sure you can credit the people who proudly uploaded movies of themselves committing violent insurrection with actual sapience. At least not whoever decided to shit on the actual rotunda floor. You can't even potty-train these people, let alone rely on them to be able to wrap their heads around thoughts more complex than "Black Man Bad".

        The people actually able to think - politicians with their base among the 73 million, shady ad peddlers eager to grow their audience on more "permissive" platforms than FB, "News" casters looking for ratings among the trailer trash - are the ones who keep writing the easy-to-remember one-line anti-230 slogans the mindless trolls keep repeating.

        It's like watching a herd of tantrum-throwing children whose creepy uncle has told them all they need to respond with, in any situation, is "YOU'RE MEAN!", to get out of every scolding.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 2 Mar 2021 @ 10:37am

      Re:

      Blame the Democrats for this crap in the first place for their insistence that tech companies can manage themselves.

      Hang on, so the Democrats are the ones claiming private companies can manage themselves, and the Republicans are insisting that they must be managed by the government? Did you come here from opposite world, or is the Republican party embracing communism now?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 1 Mar 2021 @ 11:02am

    One rule for me, another for thee

    Strange how they can so very quickly go from decrying regulations as government tyranny one second only to the very next second tell everyone foolish enough to listen to them that regulations are desperately needed and are the only things that can keep companies in check.

    Why, it's almost as though the objection isn't to regulations and government-imposed limits but that either of those might ever be applied to them...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 1 Mar 2021 @ 11:05am

    Astroturf.

    Love the stuff. My lawn would look great with it.

    Love that word. TRANSPARENCY.
    Would be nice if the current(last 40 years) of corps would Do something about it.
    Lets add the Gov.(state, fed and COUNTY) to that list.
    We are kept so busy, let me ask.
    How many have ever gone to the City, county meetings?
    How easy would it be to Take advantage of that system? A vote with only a few people to manage it. Or one with YOUR own group in the seats.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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