Some of the world's most popular websites and apps may look a little different on Wednesday--from spinning wheels, to signify slow loading times, to unusual messages on the homepage. It's not an error; it's a protest.
Technology behemoths like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Google, and Amazon are holding a digital rally today in support of Net Neutrality rules that prevent internet service providers from blocking or slowing websites or charging special fees to get their content in front of visitors. Participating companies changed their websites to show what it would look like if those rules were eliminated. On some sites, users may see a "blocked" message displayed, or multiple pop-up boxes with information on Net Neutrality. Others, like Reddit, are displaying messages that encourage users to contact the FCC in support of the open internet.
"Net Neutrality is foundational to competitive, free enterprise, entrepreneurial market entry," Lauren Culbertson, Twitter's public policy manager, wrote in a Twitter blog post. "Anyone with a great idea, a unique perspective to share, and a compelling vision can get in the game."
The "Battle for the Net" comes five days before the first deadline for comments on the FCC's planned rollback of open internet protection rules. The FCC's new chairman, Ajit Pai, wants to scrap the rules that former President Obama installed in 2015. In April of this year, Pai announced a proposal that would reverse the Title II classification of internet service providers, removing regulations on big companies like Comcast and Verizon.
Around that time, more than 800 startups and investors sent a letter to the FCC protesting the proposal. Two months later, the digital rally was announced. As July 12 loomed, more and more companies joined the cause--including AT&T, an internet service provider that has disagreed with Net Neutrality advocates over how to enforce an open internet.
"This may seem like an anomaly to many people, who might question why AT&T is joining with those who have differing viewpoints on how to ensure an open and free internet," Bob Quinn, the senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs at AT&T, wrote in a company blog post. "But that's exactly the point--we all agree that an open internet is critical for ensuring freedom of expression and a free flow of ideas and commerce in the United States and around the world."