Internet Slowdown: Was It Effective or an Empty Gesture?

Organizers behind Wednesday's symbolic "Internet Slowdown" in support of Net neutrality are dismissing criticisms from some outlets that the level of participation from some companies was weak or meaningless. The daylong, online protest was joined by more than 10,000 Web sites and resulted in over 722,000 e-mails from site visitors.

"Yesterday was a massive and resounding success," said Evan Greer, campaign manager at the advocacy group Fight for the Future, one of several organizations behind the protest. "It was an astounding testament to the power of the Internet."

Greer told us organizers were still working Thursday to forward all the e-mails they had received to the Federal Communications Commission, because the agency's servers were having trouble handling the volume of comments. The "Internet Slowdown" action also resulted in more than 300,000 phone calls to Congress, Greer said.

'Unassuming' and 'Easily Missed'?

Some news outlets covering Wednesday's protest questioned the effectiveness of the strategy, in which participating Web sites displayed a message in support of Net neutrality along with an endlessly spinning "site loading" icon.

Newsweek, for example, contrasted the bold home page message on Kickstarter with the "unassuming" and "easily missed" box that was displayed by Netflix. Writer Lauren Walker asked, "Does the small nod most participating Web sites gave to today's action mean they have given up on Net neutrality?"

Declaring that the slowdown was a "bogus, empty gesture," VentureBeat suggested, "An effective protest would degrade or cut service altogether." Compared with the content blackout that many sites like Wikipedia participated in during the 2012 campaign against the proposed U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), writer Fletcher Babb complained that in Wednesday's Internet Slowdown, participants were "settling for the electronic version of a flag lapel pin."

'Internet Spoke for Itself'

Greer countered that the relative visibility of the Net neutrality support message on any one...

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