An “incorrect report” has sparked a rift between two groups that both aim to protect net neutrality.
Fight for the Future, an internet rights group, announced on Tuesday plans to erect billboards that call out members of Congress who have voted against Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations on internet service providers (ISPs). The group has also created a “congressional scorecard” that rates lawmakers on open internet issues. Those who have voted against FCC regulations on ISPs are dubbed “Team Cable.”
Problems arose after at least one report claimed that a Fight for the Future billboard would target Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who continues to recover from injuries suffered during a June 14 shooting at a baseball practice among Republican lawmakers in Alexandria, Virginia.
The Internet Association (IA), a major lobbying group for Silicon Valley firms, issued a statement condemning Fight for the Future, calling their alleged singling-out of Scalise “despicable.”
“Fight for the Future’s latest efforts on net neutrality are unacceptable. Accusing a Member of Congress of ‘betrayal’ while he’s recovering in the hospital is despicable,” IA President and CEO Michael Beckerman said in the statement. “This type of advocacy is not what Internet Association and our member companies stand for. Whip Scalise is an honorable and hard working Member of Congress and I consider him a friend. We look forward to having a spirited policy conversation with him when he’s back at 100 percent and continue to hope for his speedy recovery.”
IA and Fight for the Future have worked together on previous campaigns, including an “Internet-Wide Day of Action” held last week to persuade the Republican-controlled FCC from rolling back the Commission’s net neutrality protections, which aim to prevent ISPs from manipulating customers’ internet service.
Evan Greer, an organizer for Fight for the Future, told the Daily Dot in an email that the IA statement was “ based on an incorrect report.” A report from the Hill originally listed Scalise as one of the lawmakers set to appear on a billboard. Scalise’s name has since been edited out of the story.
“Rep Scalise’s name was included in private emails to two reporters, due to a copy paste error, and corrected once brought to our attention,” she added. “We would obviously not run billboards against somebody who is in the hospital.”
Scalise remains in the “Team Cable” camp on Fight for the Future’s scorecard due to his voting record. New York Reps. Claudia Tenney (R), Gregory Meeks (R), Chris Collins (R), and Tom Reed (R) also appear under that title. Greer said it is important to hold members of Congress accountable for their votes that affect the internet.
“As for the billboards focused on other members, Congress plays an important role overseeing the FCC, and voters deserve to know where their members stand,” Greer said. “The goal of our billboards is to make sure that the public knows which members are supporting the FCC’s plan to dismantle important net neutrality protections.”
IA did not respond to our request for comment on its plans to stand by or amend its original statement about Fight for the Future.