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Burger King Loves Net Neutrality (?!) and Other Whoppers

Burger King just made an ad about Net Neutrality.

"While such industry-written legislation would be the worst idea since chicken fries, there’s no chance the public will buy it." (And Congress shouldn’t either.)(Photo:Screenshot)

"While such industry-written legislation would be the worst idea since chicken fries, there’s no chance the public will buy it." (Photo:Screenshot)

These are not words I ever expected to type.

And yet Wednesday, the fast-food giant released one of the most clever Net Neutrality explainer videos ever.

It’s a must-watch:

Some buzz-killers are complaining that Burger King doesn’t really care about Net Neutrality and is just trying to exploit a hot-button topic.

To them, I say: I know! Isn’t it great?!

Net Neutrality is so popular right now that it’s being used to sell hamburgers. This supposedly obscure issue, one that all the political experts spent years trying to dismiss and rename, is so prominent that Burger-freaking-King wants a piece of it.

Right now Net Neutrality ranks high on the list of concerns of millennial voters — right up there with marijuana legalization. If nothing else, BK knows its target demo.

The unprecedented public response since Ajit Pai’s FCC moved to kill Net Neutrality in December has now seized the attention of Madison Avenue.

This is new territory. And it’s delicious.

This wasn’t the only new ad campaign that launched on Wednesday.

Telecom giant AT&T took out full-page newspaper ads with a letter from CEO Randall Stephenson calling for the creation of an “Internet Bill of Rights” and pretending the company hasn’t spent untold millions to undermine Net Neutrality, municipal broadband, online privacy, surveillance and competition.

This expensive albeit old-school ad strategy shows just how nervous AT&T is about Congress passing a bill to overturn what the FCC did in December.

Fifty senators and 110 representatives have signed on as co-sponsors of resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act — and the rules haven’t even been made official yet. (If your rep isn’t on the list, call them!)

AT&T is worried. So the company is trying to mount a desperate but-what-about-Google strategy to distract from its own mendacity.

But as Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood explains, no one should trust AT&T’s call for one-size-fits-all rules for websites and content providers:

Plain and simple, it’s a bad idea. Online platforms like Google, Facebook and Amazon wield tremendous power. We need answers to questions about their impact on our economy, our elections, our privacy and our news and information.

But no matter how much it wants to pretend otherwise, when a company like AT&T connects you to the internet, that’s not the same thing as the information and content you find online.

ISPs aren’t like newspapers, movie studios or even social-media platforms that produce and curate information for their users. ISPs are common carriers, and should be treated as such, subject to reasonable nondiscrimination rules like the ones in the 2015 Open Internet Order.

By pure coincidence, yesterday a barrage of tweets went out that urged people to stop their lawmakers from supporting the CRA. These tweets — again, purely coincidentally — also promoted new AT&T-style legislation, and linked to the totally-organic-and-not-developed-in-a-D.C.-PR-firm hashtag #netneutlawnow.

Astroturf, anyone?

While such industry-written legislation would be the worst idea since chicken fries, there’s no chance the public will buy it. (And Congress shouldn’t either.)

“People understand the importance of an open internet, and they know to distrust the empty promises of cable and phone companies,” Wood says. “As soon as AT&T wants to stop lobbying against Net Neutrality, broadband privacy and the other rights it’s worked to kill via the Trump FCC and this Congress, maybe people will stop laughing at desperate tactics like this. For now, all we can do is point out the company’s audacity in pretending that this hyper-partisan Congress can step in to fill the void of the Net Neutrality repeal by writing a new law tailor-made for AT&T.”

So that’s today’s lesson: Eat Whoppers, don’t fall for them.

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Craig Aaron

Craig Aaron is president and CEO of Free Press, the national, non partisan media reform group. He is the editor of two books, Appeal to Reason: 25 Years of In These Times and Changing Media: Public Interest Policies for the Digital Age. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

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