On Sunday, comedian John Oliver took to his new HBO satirical news program Last Week Tonight with a simple goal: Explain the importance of net neutrality in a way his viewers would simultaneously understand and not find dreadfully, mind-numbingly boring.
As with most other feats the former Daily Show correspondent has thus far attempted on his fledgling show, it was a resounding success.
“Net neutrality is actually hugely important,” Oliver explained. ?Essentially it means that all data has to be treated equally no matter who creates it. It’s why the Internet is a weirdly level playing field and startups can supplant established brands. It’s how Facebook supplanted MySpace, which supplanted Friendster, which supplanted actually having any friends. Do you remember physically having friends? It was awful. You couldn’t tap people’s faces to make them go away.”
See, informative and funny. However much HBO is paying this guy, the network should probably double it.
(Note to John Oliver: Feel free to use the previous line in your next round of contract negogiations. #sixseasonsandamovie)
Oliver concluded the segment with a call for the Internet to unleash its single greatest resource upon the FCC—trolls. Oliver urged the Internet’s infinite army of angry, grammatically challenged commenters to point their 100-word-per-minute, caps-locked spittle-cannons at the section of the FCC’s website where the agency is legally required to take comments from the public about its proposal to end net neutrality as we know it .
“We need you to get out there and, for once in your lives, focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction,” Oliver insisted.
Instead of the legion of Internet trolls insisting that they weren’t Oliver’s personal army, which is a thing that often happens after incitements to collective online action, the Internet apparently listened. The FCC’s website was flooded with angry, troll-ish messages slamming the proposal to allow cable companies to charge online content providers with access to fast lanes.
The torrent of messages crashed the comments section of the FCC’s website. Four days later, the page has yet to fully recover.
NPR reports that the FCC has received over 45,000 comments on the issue. Nearly half of those comments came on the Monday and Tuesday following Oliver’s show.
The agency also set up a dedicated email address exclusively for net neutrality issues just to take the load off its beleagured servers. That address has received over 300,000 messages.
To give a sense of scale, the FCC’s pending approval of the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, a controversial proposal in its own right, only netted about 1,700 comments.
The Verge has helpfully cataloged some of the best and worst comments. As promised, they read like a manifestation of the comments section of a YouTube video suddenly tasked with doing something kind of useful. A few are included below. Naturally, being terrible Internet troll comments, they are full of explicit language. So, you know, fair warning.
From Captain Obvious:
STOP THE CABLE COMPAANIES FROM RAPING ME!!!! IF YOU LET THEM HAVE HYPER SPEEDS THEY WILL JUST USE THEM TO HYPER RAPE!!!! DON’T YOU SEE!?
From Paul Allen:
A Fast lane is NOT net neutrality. I have lost all faith in the chairman’s leadership. He is nothing more than a corporate shill. Plus I bet he has a tiny penis. I want REAL NET NEUTRALITY.
From JEFF BUCKINGHAM:
“We the People” have to keep the AmericaNazi Party– mostly Republicanazis, actually– and the Gestapo Bush Family and their C.S “New World Odor” away from the only viable worldwide channel to bring Freedom to the World, expose World Capitalism as the RightWing Totalitarianism that it wants to be. We also WILL expose the Most Massive CoverUp in History (Next to Big Oil’s LIES that petroleum is the ONLY way for Future energy)= CIA’s and MJ-12’s burying and Disinformation (@) UFO’s and all the artifacts of Theirs so Humans cannot get TO Their Technology and Free EVERYONE!!!
And so forth…
Much of the popular opposition to changing the net neutrality principals that have been in place since 2010 appears to have caught the FCC by surprise.
While the Internet community has flexed its politcal muscle in recent years to oppose much-loathed bills like SOPA and PIPA, rule changes about what type of contracts regarding data transmission rates telecom companies can strike with online content providers likely didn’t seem sexy enough to make the FCC think they would trigger a backlash of this scale.
Or, as Oliver so aptly put it: ?If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring.”
Screengrab via Last Week Tonight/YouTube