What do you do when the FCC doesn’t care about you?

During last week’s day of action for net neutrality, I called, petitioned, and emailed my representatives. Then I switched my profile picture to a ninja cat on a unicorn with lasers for eyes.

The picture above is terribly cliched. But that could be a good thing, in context. It could even be meaningful.

No corporate interests drove the cultural triumph of pixelated rainbows or feline ronin. But these memes are rooted in our psyches to an almost oppressive degree nonetheless. That we can look at the above image and think “well, duh, that’s the internet for you, gee whillikers” and yawn to ourselves or roll our eyes says something powerful.

That something is the glorious and surprising online hegemony of participatory culture.

Participatory culture is Professor Henry Jenkins’ term of art for grassroots communities that grow, share, and create via technology. Jenkins views participatory culture as primarily something that young people do; for the purposes of this blog, it is age-unrestricted.

The web may be the ur-example of modern participatory culture. The internet is strange because strange people banded together and worked hard to make it strange. Not all of these weirdos have corporate money to throw around. Not all of them have access to avenues for organizing or communicating offline. But they know how to use the internet. And they are worth protecting.

Internet-mediated participatory culture impacts a tremendous and growing swath of modernity. In recent years, the power of the internet to unify and concentrate cultural movements has borne sometimes delightful, sometimes alarming fruit in the form of participatory politics. Participatory politics is also Henry Jenkins’ coinage, and it’s just what it sounds like: using technology on a grassroots level to connect with likeminded individuals and effect political change.

You encountered participatory politics during the 2016 presidential election. You have been living with the fallout ever since.

Participatory politics is like any other tool or process: how it is used depends on the intent of those who use it. Participatory politics has fueled, among other things, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, the MP expense account scandal, Gamergate and the alt-right, Bernie bros, ISIS, and the Arab Spring.

Last week, Battle for the Net contributors including the EFF used participatory politics to defend the FCC’s current policy on net neutrality. We did a pretty good job, if you judge such things by engagement numbers and records broken. We sent more than five million emails to Congress and left more than nine million comments to the FCC. On July 12, we actually broke the record for most comments left for the FCC in a single day. The previous record was held by–wait for it–Battle for the Net as well!

So clearly we did a good job, right? I mean, apparently we did an awesome job…so the FCC is going to respond to our concerns any day now, right?

Unfortunately, the current chairman of the FCC appears to be just as committed to open dialogue, bipartisan politics, and responsivity to the needs of the populace as the man who appointed him. Under Ajit Pai’s leadership, the FCC is ignoring not just the record-breaking millions of comments, but also poll results showing strong bipartisan support for current net neutrality regulations among U.S. citizens.

Sounds pretty crazy, right? But it gets crazier.

Because the FCC is ignoring the whole zombie commenter problem. Because zombie commenters are, sigh, a thing now.

A few months ago, a third party (probably working for an ISP) used names from old voter registration sheets to leave fraudulent comments with the FCC. How many fake comments? About 500,000.

Check to see if your name was used here

It gets crazier. Some of these fake comments were signed by dead people. This seems like cause for consternation, right? Especially on the part of the regulatory agency. So the FCC developed a comment screening process and pledged to overhaul problems in its comment collection system. Just kidding!

The FCC publicly declared that the agency would make no attempt to discern between real and fake comments unless the signatories were obviously fake names such as King Kong or Napoleon Bonaparte, a position that categorically excluded the real names of real dead people who didn’t sign up for any of this, because they’re dead. Really.

Now, given the last six months and just, uh, everything, let’s make something clear. Ajit Pai is not suffering from dementia. Mr. Pai is not just an old decrepit husk of a man tottering about the Court of Appeals in a bathrobe with Fox and Friends on blast. His agency’s statements are not the strenuous but doomed attempts of staffers to make sense of Ajit Pai’s word salad. No one at the FCC is sundowning, okay? Pai and pals are more than mentally competent to perform in their appointed positions. They know what they’re doing here. That means they’re doing it on purpose.

So what do we do when our leaders won’t respond to us? Do we just give up? Is there even a point to protest under these conditions?

I think there is. In fact, I think there are several.

Through continuing to advocate for our beliefs and our needs, we let other politicians know the constituent demand for net neutrality. This lays a solid groundwork for policy change under future administrations. We also find our own voices in articulating our thoughts to ourselves and others, which is key for sparking genuine innovations and solutions. And we find our kin, the people with whom we can form deep philosophical communion. We are primates, after all. We need community.

Keep fighting. Keep talking. Keep making noise. When our leaders abandon us, all we have are each other.

You can start here .

May 8th Meetup – Cooperative Ownership and Business Models in the Tech World

Our speaker this month will be Robert Matney. Robert Matney is Co-Owner and COO of Polycot Associates, a web development agency and is a co-founder and Technology Director of Whirligig Productions. Robert is also Technology Director for Hidden Room Theatre and a Board Trustee for Austin Shakespeare, a multi-award-winning stage and voice actor and director, and a web technologist with Polycot Associates. Recently, Robert played Andrei in Lola Pierson and Yury Urnov’s “Thr3e Zisters” for Salvage Vanguard Theatre, Sebastian Topflyte in Paul Menzer’s “Invisible, Inc.” and Duke Humphrey in “Rose Rage” (the latter two for Hidden Room Theatre), and the title role in “Uncle Vanya” for Breaking String Theater. You can battle Robert’s voice as Doctor Psycho and Starro in the video game DC Universe Online. Robert was a speaker or presenter at South By Southwest Interactive 2013, 2012 and 2011, as well Blackfriars 2011, 2013, 2015, and Fusebox Festival 2011 and 2017.

Robert will be leading us in a discussion of cooperative business models and their place in the world of technology and development. Using the company Polycot Associates (a web development firm where Robert is the COO) as a case study, Robert will briefly touch upon the differing types of cooperatives and where tech/dev lives in the broader cooperative movement before transitioning into questions such as how to handle tactical management with loose hierarchy in the context of an egalitarian member-owner leadership structure, as well as the process via which Polycot was converted from a sole proprietorship with contractors into a coop.

Parking validation is available for the Omni garage. Details:

http://capitalfactory.com/about/parking/


https://www.facebook.com/events/130574010821797/

Cooperative Ownership and Business Models in the Tech World

Monday, May 8, 2017, 7:00 PM

Capital Factory
701 Brazos Street, Suite 1601 Austin, TX

31 Activists Went

Our speaker this month will be Robert Matney. Robert Matney is Co-Owner and COO of Polycot Associates, a web development agency and is a co-founder and Technology Director of Whirligig Productions. Robert is also Technology Director for Hidden Room Theatre and a Board Trustee for Austin Shakespeare, a multi-award-winning stage and voice actor and d…

Check out this Meetup →

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January 19th – Workshop: Digital Security in the Practice of Law

EFF-Austin is hosting a Security Workshop at UT Law (Townes Hall 2.138) in conjunction with Open Austin. Our speakers will be Alex Shahrestani and Justin Laden. They will be discussing attorney client privilege in regards to digital communications, best actions to prevent and react to privacy breaches, and cloud storage data security.

Alex Shahrestani studied computer science to prepare for a career in the law and technology, and he’s continued his pursuits since arriving at the University of Texas School of Law. He founded the Journal of Law and Technology at Texas, works with EFF Austin, has helped develop automation technology to improve access to expunctions, won an award for entrepreneurship in legal technology, and has invested in big data law with his summer employments. He currently plans to launch his own technology law practice upon graduation in May of 2018. He can be reached at alexanders@utexas.edu.

Justin Laden completed his master’s degree in Computer Science with a specialization in security from Boston University in 2010. In addition, he holds graduate certificates in Information Security and Digital Forensics. Justin is passionate about helping clients understand the ever-increasing risks to their assets. For the past six years, he has helped small and medium sized organizations—as well as individuals and start-ups—secure their data and detect network intrusions. Justin is currently working toward his JD at the University of Texas Law School, and plans to combine his experience in computer security with the practice of law. He can be reached at justinladen@gmail.com.

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https://www.facebook.com/events/239173943172582/

EFF-Austin Security Workshop

Thursday, Jan 19, 2017, 5:30 PM

Townes Hall (TNH) 2.138
727 E Dean Keeton St Austin, TX

23 Activists Went

EFF-Austin is hosting a Security Workshop at UT Law in conjunction with Open Austin. Our speakers will be Alex Shahrestani and Justin Laden. They will be discussing attorney client privilege in regards to digital communications, best actions to prevent and react to privacy breaches, and cloud storage data security.Alex Shahrestani studied computer…

Check out this Meetup →

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