The US government could use the new net neutrality repeal to allow people only to read supportive media sites, campaigners have warned.
Donald Trump's administration, under the new Federal Communications Commission chairman Arjit Pai, has announced that it will kill net neutrality protections. As such, it will do away with one of the fundamental principles of the internet: that all traffic is treated the same, and that companies or people shouldn't be able to block or speed up certain sites.
With that restriction out of the way, internet companies could be allowed to charge people for specific websites, or only allow some sites to be free. And that could easily be abused by an administration that has regularly attacked media and internet sites that it feels are insufficiently supportive.
One of the media companies that would benefit from such a hypothetic situation, Breitbart, has already lent its support to the plan.
Such blocks already exist in some places in the world. One Portuguese internet service provider forces people to buy their data in parts – paying extra for chat apps or video streaming, for instance – and Facebook's 'Free Basics' internet project has been attacked for only actually providing Facebook and other sites for free.
Now campaigners have suggested that similar rules could be put in place that would allow only media supportive of the Trump administration or other future presidencies to be given out to users for free. Internet companies could also choose to only allow people to access certain sites that were helpful to them, too.
Campaigners are using the example to show how the principle of net neutrality could easily be abused. Service providers have made no suggestion that they would introduce such rules, claiming instead that they only want the protections lifted so they can invest more money in infrastructure, but are looking to actively exploit the repeal of net neutrality.
However, activists have repeatedly said that the decision by the FCC allows for such intervention and blocks to easily be put in place, without any protections.
With Net Neutrality gone, the flow of information will be controlled on a level people just aren’t thinking about yet.— Catherynne Valente (@catvalente) November 20, 2017
Imagine the lowest priced net service including only Breitbart, RT, Infowars, TrumpTV, Fox News, basic email & Facebook.
To put it simply: the FCC is not serving the public interest, but rather is serving the interests of the very few but massive vertically integrated ISPs that support the current agency’s agenda.— EFF (@EFF) November 21, 2017
The site Breitbart – which has supported Donald Trump since he launched his campaign – said that it supported such a move.
The FCC's Arjit Pai has said that the repeal will be voted on in December. At that point, the Obama-era protections for net neutrality will be repealed.