Chances are you’re reading this online. If the website was slow, you probably blamed your wifi or cell reception. Now, however, you’ll have to wonder if the website was throttled by a major corporation who doesn’t like the content.
Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) disregarded expert advice from Congress, leading tech companies, and millions of public comments when they voted along party lines to repeal net neutrality. This move allows telecom corporations to control what you can see and do online. The people in power will be able to create a pay for play internet to determine which websites they want you to see.
Put another way, the repeal of net neutrality takes the “neutral” out of the internet.
Until now, the internet has always been the great equalizer. All websites play by the same rules. This allowed the internet to become the largest public forum of free speech ever invented. For marginalized communities like LGBTQ people, this freedom has been instrumental in accelerating LGBTQ acceptance and helping us create healthy community and personal identities. Yesterday’s repeal of net neutrality aims to cut us off from our most vital lifeline: a free and open internet.
At GLAAD, we see every day how LGBTQ people benefit from online spaces. LGBTQ people in isolated areas rely on the internet to find communities they can’t access in real life. Online spaces provide access to vital resources on coming out, safer sex, healthcare and many other topics. Social media provides a rare place to showcase positive LGBTQ role models who are often underrepresented in tradition media. Online spaces help make possible smaller publications that serve LGBTQ audiences (like the one you’re reading right now).
Imagine an internet where telecom corporations only give high speed lanes to websites that can afford it. What happens when LGBTQ people in crisis attempt to access The Trevor Project only to find the website won’t load?
Imagine an internet vulnerable to the political views of corporate leadership. What happens when life saving HIV information is vetted by a conservative-leaning, abstinence-only board?
Imagine an internet where you have to buy website bundles similar to cable bundles. What happens when young LGBTQ children seeking information on coming find out their parents haven’t purchased that bundle?
With net neutrality, these situations were only hypothetical. After yesterday’s vote, these situations are all now plausible. Despite the repeal, the fight isn’t over. The battle will now be taken over by advocates and public officials who need your support to keep the momentum going.
Don’t be fooled by those who argue this repeal is about free-market economics or government over regulation. Yesterday’s vote, lead by the Trump-appointed FCC Chair, is just one more attempt to silence the voices of already marginalized communities. Nowhere was this more apparent than the passion, speed and coordination with which anti-LGBTQ publications like Breitbart and The Federalist seized upon to weigh in on the discussion.
To be honest, that wasn’t surprising. But we were caught off guard by the intense levels of vitriol and anger we received from anti-LGBTQ voices on social mediavisit @GLAAD on Twitter if you want to see more, but be warned, it is hard to stomach. Which just goes to prove that we need to be working to create more safe spaces for LGBTQ people online, not tearing them down. Without net neutrality, censorship and erasure of the LGBTQ community is not only possible, but inevitable.