I awoke on Friday morning on the West Coast, logged online, and did what I have been doing every single morning for years. I opened my browser and immediately went to Reddit.com to see what top stories, memes, and videos were trending. After all, it is “the front page of the internet.”
But what I saw was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Nearly every single post on the main landing page for Reddit, which is viewed by millions of people every day, was dedicated to bashing the many U.S. Senators who accepted political donations from the telecom industry and did not speak out against the Federal Communications Commission’s upcoming vote to gut net neutrality.
I scrolled, it continued, and felt like it didn’t end.
Each post had a similar prompt: This is my representative, and they sold out this nation to the telecom lobby for _____ dollars, listing the donation amount received. Other posts, like this one on r/NewJersey praising Senator Corey Booker, called out representatives who stood in favor of Net Neutrality.
While the front page will often contain similar posts when major news stories break, especially political, this is very different. These posts are not popping out of big subreddits like r/technology or r/news, which have loads of subscribers, they’re coming from smaller communities, such as r/Wisconsin and r/Philadelphia.
When reached by phone, a representative for Reddit confirmed that there was no vote manipulation or favoring taking place on the site on Friday and seemed equally shocked with the wave of posts.
The company has long been a supporter of a free and open internet, and even loaded its site with huge red ads on Friday. They’re impossible to miss when visiting the site.
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, aka spez, posted a lengthy blog post on Monday, praising Redditors for their commitment to the issue, and driving home the point that this is an issue that affects everyone, not just coastal elites.
“Our goal in this effort is to keep the personal dimension of the open internet top of mind for everyone who wants to repeal net neutrality,” Huffman wrote. “We know how powerful redditors banding together for a common cause can be, so our focus will continue to be on amplifying your voices, from Capitol Hill to — if it comes to it — the Supreme Court.”
The full message:
Update: Thank you, everyone! We were in touch with Congressman Mike Doyle’s office yesterday sharing some of your great stories from his home district in Pennsylvania (thanks, u/Bones_MD!), and they’ve heard you loud and clear. They are leading an effort to get Congress to ask the FCC to delay their December 14 vote, but they need as many Congressional members as possible to sign on. You can help them by calling or writing your member of Congress (look them up here or through www.battleforthenet.com) and specifically asking him or her to sign onto Representative Doyle’s letter to the FCC. We’ll be doing the same. Keep it up, we’re being heard!
If you spent any time on Reddit last week, you may have noticed a common theme in the posts on your front page, so we wanted to take a moment to recap what’s happened so far in the fight for net neutrality, underscore how important this issue is to Reddit, and share how we plan to continue to stand up for an internet that remains open and free.
On Tuesday, FCC chairman Ajit Pai announced his intention to vote on a full rollback of the 2015 net neutrality rules. While the pre-Thanksgiving timing of the announcement might have helped the news sneak by over the holidays, you all have helped prevent that from happening. Aside from ensuring that net neutrality was discussed IRL around Thanksgiving tables across the country, you brought the conversation about the open internet to almost every community on the site, from r/dataisbeautiful to r/trashpandas. You’ve made high-quality gifs, flooded the meme market, explained the issue to people who are out of the loop, and given a history of why net neutrality rules are essential.
In just one week, you made 50,000 unique posts and over 350,000 comments related to net neutrality, generating over 21 million votes. While Tuesday’s news hits close to home, we are grateful that the Reddit community cares just as much about net neutrality as we do at Reddit HQ.
As many of you know, the FCC’s vote will happen on December 14 and is expected to pass. However, the vote is also expected to be challenged almost immediately in court, likely kicking off a long process that will take years to work through. During this time, Congress will likely try to legislate a fix. As a still-small company that owes its existence to net neutrality’s giving us a fair chance in the marketplace, we will take every opportunity to share our perspective and give constructive input to this process. The data says that Americans don’t see this as a partisan issue, and neither do we.
Most of the activism right now is focused on driving messages to Congress and the FCC before December 14 (including a protest in DC the day before the vote). The FCC has received a record 22 million comments on net neutrality but has indicated they have not reviewed comments that don’t introduce new facts into the record or make serious legal arguments. Additionally, they believe a number of the comments are fake. While we are unlikely to change the FCC’s decision, we encourage you to follow Commissioner Rosenworcel’s suggestion and continue to “make a ruckus” to let the FCC hear your individual stories on the importance of net neutrality.
A few months ago, u/kn0thingasked you to leave comments explaining why net neutrality is important to you, and thousands of you delivered. Today, we’re asking you again to leave personal stories that we can use in the battle ahead. When we shared these stories with members of Congress this past July, we saw firsthand how effective they are at humanizing an issue that is too often perceived as an abstract battle between big corporate interests.
We will continue to share these personal testimonials with more members of Congress, with the media, and potentially file them in court briefs. Our goal in this effort is to keep the personal dimension of the open internet top of mind for everyone who wants to repeal net neutrality. We know how powerful redditors banding together for a common cause can be, so our focus will continue to be on amplifying your voices, from Capitol Hill to — if it comes to it — the Supreme Court.
So, please tell us in the comments:
How would your life change if internet service providers started blocking or throttling certain internet traffic, or creating paid prioritization channels for certain content?
Include as much detail as you feel comfortable sharing. Generally, the more specific, the better. Mentioning your state and Congressional representative is especially useful.
u/ArabScarab (Jessica Ashooh, our Head of Policy), and I will hang around to answer questions.
The Federal Communications Commission will vote to end net neutrality on Dec. 14, but regardless of the outcome of that vote, Reddit knows that this will be a long and tumultuous battle that it’s ready to fight.
TL;DR: Don’t mess with Reddit.