Net neutrality is the basic concept that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. That service providers should not discriminate on the basis of user, website, platform, application, equipment or mode. On this day of action, I want to take a look at the role of money and language in this important fight.
The role of money in the fight for net neutrality
The fight against net neutrality is really all about profit for Internet Service Providers. There is no upside for internet users.
Without net neutrality, Internet Service Providers could
- create even more effective monopolies by slowing down your access to their competitors’ services,
- charge you extra to visit your favourite websites,
- restrict freedom of speech by crippling sites they disagree with,
- effectively make small sites disappear from searches.
The role of language in the fight for net neutrality
Today’s day of action is in response to the disgustingly named ‘Restoring Internet Freedom Act’.
We can call this a form of doublespeak, a type of language that ‘deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts or reverses the meaning of words’ especially when it comes to political language.
Examples include euphemisms such as ‘downsizing’ (for layoffs), ‘servicing the target’ (for bombing), and in this case ‘freedom’ for ‘restrictions’. The ‘freedom’ referred to here is a freedom for Internet Service Providers to restrict YOUR freedoms.
Doublespeak is based on two concepts introduced in George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four:
- ‘doublethink‘ (simultaneously accepting two contradictory beliefs) and
- ‘newspeak‘ (a controlled language with restricted grammar and vocabulary designed to control thought).
Orwell also wrote about the distortion of language for political purposes in Politics and the English Language:
political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them… But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.
The World Wide Web
Although the current day of action is in relation to a US Act, the world wide web is of course worldwide. Many of the largest internet companies are of course American, and many of your favourite websites are likely hosted in the US. This affects all of us.
As a blogger, an online researcher, and most importantly, an internet user, I hope you’ll join me in the fight for net neutrality today. And every day, I hope you’ll join me in looking behind the intentionally deceptive doublespeak that is a feature of our political landscape to follow the money.
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