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Reporter: Comcast-Linked News Site Removed My Article on Net Neutrality Lobbying

Strong net neutrality rules are needed to help protect minority viewpoints online.
 
 
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In a move that smacks of censorship, Republic Report has discovered that a telecom industry-affiliated lobbying group successfully persuaded an African American news website to remove an article that reported critically on the groups advocating against Net Neutrality. The order to delete the article came from the website’s parent company, a business partner to Comcast.

Last Friday, I reported on how several civil rights groups, almost all with funding from Comcast, Verizon and other Internet Service Providers, recently wrote to the Federal Communication Commission in support of Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan, which would create Internet fast lanes and slow lanes, an effective death of Net Neutrality. That piece was syndicated with  Salon and The Nation, and several outlets aggregated the article. For a short period, NewsOne, a news site geared towards the African American community, posted the piece along with its own commentary.

Then, the NewsOne article with my reporting disappeared.

If you Google the term ‘ MMTC NewsOne,’ the NewsOne article (“Civil Rights Groups Blocking Efforts To Keep Internet Fair?”) still appears in the result list, though if you click it, it’s been deleted off of the web. Luckily, the Internet cache still has a copy.

According to discussions with several people at NewsOne, including an editor there, the decision to take down the article came from corporate headquarters. NewsOne editor Abena Agyeman-Fisher told Republic Report, “the company didn’t feel it was appropriate to have up and we were suppose to take it down.” NewsOne is owned by Radio One, a company with a 50.9% stake in a business partnership with Comcast known as TV One.

NewsOne was also contacted by a lobbying group called the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC), an organization that has gained infamy for frequently mobilizing Black, Latino and Asian American groups to advocate on behalf of telecom industry-friendly positions, including recent big media mergers. On Monday, according to an attendee at an MMTC conference, MMTC vice president Nicol Turner-Lee referred to my reporting as a “ digital lynch mob.” Turner-Lee, who resigned her previous position at a nonprofit after allegations of financial impropriety, reportedly claimed that minority organizations that support Title II reclassification — the only path for effective Net Neutrality after a court ruling in January — are not “ true civil rights leaders.”

Contacted by Republic Report, MMTC president David Honig confirmed that he reached out to NewsOne, and also stood by Turner-Lee’s comments from earlier this week. Asked about the digital lynch mob comment, Honig e-mailed us to say, “I stand with Dr. Turner Lee’s assessment of the various hit pieces written by you and others. She spoke in the vernacular of the movement to which she has devoted her life, and is referencing the divide and conquer tactics used for decades to undermine the civil rights movement.” Regarding the claim that no “true civil rights leaders” support reclassification, Honig replied, “she was correct. Not one of the leaders of the major national civil rights membership organizations has endorsed Title II reclassification.”

In fact, many civil rights groups and activists support reclassification and strong Net Neutrality protections. Reached by Republic Report, the organizations were livid about MMTC’s insults and the decision by NewsOne to retract its story.

“MMTC is not the arbiter of who is and who is not a true civil rights group,” says Jessica Gonzalez, vice president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, which represents a broad coalition in support of Net Neutrality through reclassification. “For them to claim anyone who supports reclassification is not a true civil rights group is just laughable. We have gone to the mat for our community for decades.”

 
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