Originally published: December 1, 2009
Last updated: December 1, 2009 - 10:36pm
[Commentary] When Fox News' Glenn Beck called President Barack Obama a racist this past July, the online advocacy group ColorOfChange.org launched a campaign to convince advertisers to boycott the show. To date, some 285,000 people have joined the effort, and more than 80 companies have pulled their ads. CNN parted ways with Lou Dobbs last month after civil rights groups and Presente.org mobilized thousands of Latinos online to call on CNN to dump the talk show host for spewing hate against immigrants for years. None of this -- not these advocacy efforts, not countless small business success stories, not even the election of President Obama -- would have happened without a free and open Internet.
For communities of color, the Internet provides us with a unique opportunity to speak for ourselves without first seeking approval or permission or having to secure major funds to do so. But the big telecommunications companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast want to create an effectively segregated online community where they will act as our gatekeepers. We are living through a critical moment in our nation's history. The FCC is going to decide whether the Internet will remain an open platform that allows for the greatest number of voices to participate in our democratic society, or whether it will be a closed network controlled by the big telecom companies. We are concerned about the dire consequences of living without Net Neutrality. It would create a separate but unequal online world where our communities will be unable to use the Internet to compete or to advocate for justice when we have been wronged. We need civil rights, media justice, community-oriented and grassroots organizations to stand together to make sure effective Net Neutrality regulation will protect our communities from the predatory practices of the phone and cable companies. As with past civil rights struggles that successfully expanded access, thwarted discrimination, destroyed legalized segregation, and created broad opportunity, so too will the cause of Internet freedom.
[Malkia Cyril is the executive director of the Center for Media Justice. Chris Rabb is the founder of the online community Afro-Netizen and is a visiting researcher at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Joseph Torres is the government relations manager of Free Press and former deputy director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.]
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