Epic Livestream unites net neutrality supporters across the Internet
The Internet is NOT giving up on net neutrality.
In April, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Save the Internet Act in an effort to enshrine net neutrality into law. But Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has blocked the Senate from voting on the wildly popular measure, despite the fact that Republicans and Democrats passed a nearly identical bill just last year.
So on Tuesday, June 11th, Ed Markey (D-MA) tried to force a vote on the Senate floor, and Fight for the Future was there to cover the action with an epic, all-day livestream and day of action that reached over 1.2 million people across Twitch, Facebook, and Twitter, and helped drive more than 100,000 calls, emails, and messages to lawmakers.
The livestream featured dozens of guests ranging from Comedy Central star Mike Eagle to Victoria Ruiz of punk band Downtown Boys to Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA, 17th), along with gamers, YouTube creators, small business owners, US veterans, and policy experts. It was amplified by net neutrality champions like Reddit, Tumblr, Tinder, Github, OK Cupid, BoingBoing, Private Internet Access, Mozilla, Imgur, ADT, and Match.com.
LIVE from Washington, D.C.
The broadcast started with Sarah Morris from the Open Technology Institute discussing the history and context of the Save the Internet Act. Pro Privacy’s Douglas Crawford then joined to discuss the links between net neutrality and digital privacy, and how these issues impact Internet users across the globe.
We then cut to Washington, D.C., where two dozen activists — including comedian Ron Placone, Francella Ochillo of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Mark Stanley of Demand Progress, and Fight for the Future’s very own Laila Abdelaziz — presented Mitch McConnell’s office with comments and signatures from 3.5 million Americans in support of net neutrality.
Stephen Blum from Tellus Ventures joined the stream to read comments from business owners about how net neutrality is vital for free markets online, followed by Army veteran Jose Tro who shared powerful comments from other US veterans and service members about why net neutrality is important to them.
Our next guest on the livestream was Gigi Sohn, co-founder of the public interest group Public Knowledge and a former senior staff member of the FCC. Gigi explained how the loss of net neutrality has been impacting Internet users for the past year, and discussed the importance of having legal frameworks in place to protect individuals from potential abuse. Gigi was followed by Craig Aaron, the President and CEO of Free Press, who discussed organization’s lawsuits against the FCC to defend independent voices from censorship.
The Senate Debate
We then cut to the Senate floor, where Senator Markey was joined by Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who all gave passionate speeches in defense of a free and open Internet. Markey called for “unanimous consent” — a Congressional procedure that could force a vote on the Save the Internet Act if no members of the Senate objected.
As expected, Roger Wicker (R-MS) took to the floor to parrot Big Cable’s talking points, shutting down the possibility of a vote. It’s worth noting that Roger Wicker had previously been the focus of a Fight for the Future protest for his telecom-sponsored fundraiser at a chic DC-area restaurant.
But the end of this round of debate on net neutrality was just the beginning of our epic livestream …
Guests, guests, and more guests!
We promised an epic livestream, and our incredible guests delivered. Entrepreneurs Kunal Bhatia and Chris Mitchell from SlidesUp and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance talked about how the open Internet had helped them in their personal and professional endeavors, while GitHub’s Director of Policy Mike Linksvayer tackled difficult philosophical questions about the future of digital freedom.
Mike Eagle discussed the uphill battle he has faced in building his audience through social media platforms, and spoke passionately about the need to protect equal access to information for all individuals.
Regrettably, technical difficulties prevented us from talking with award-winning investigative journalist Greg Palast and Imgur’s co-founder and now VP of Community Sarah Schaaf. However, Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT At-Large) helped us get back on track by discussing the importance of net neutrality for rural communities and the path forward for legislation.
So many guests were eager to join our livestream, and we were gracious that so many of them agreed to share screen time with each other in free-flowing group discussion that saw musician and video creator Left at London, activist Steven Renderos from the Center for Media Justice, and streamers Tara Devlin, Ferociously Steph, and Ripley Violet getting personal about how the Internet has provided them with a platform from which to share their unique voices with the world.
Graham Elwood found ways to make us laugh at the absurdity of our current political climate, while Baratunde Thurston — author of “How to Be Black,” formerly of The Onion and The Daily Show — brought his trademark wit to the livestream in laying bare why net neutrality is more critical now than ever.
Our livestream host Evan Greer gushed over guest Victoria Ruiz, who has fronted the politically-charged and critically-acclaimed punk rock band Downtown Boys since 2012. And in a twist of fate, she was followed by her congressional representative Ro Khanna. Khanna explained the dangers of a world without net neutrality and outlined how we can restore these vital legal protections for all Americans.
Activist Shannon Thomas stopped by to discuss her journey to becoming a political activist, and shared inspiring thoughts on the different ways that all of us ordinary Americans can do extraordinary things that can help change our society for the better.
And Demand Progress’ Mark Stanley closed out the livestream with some final thoughts on how his experience as a political activist informs his vision of a future where net neutrality is inevitable.
A truly epic lineup
All in all, we had more than 30 different writers, musicians, podcast hosts, streamers, activists, entrepreneurs, politicians, and everyday people participate in our livestream to discuss the importance of net neutrality in their lives.
And the impact was HUGE; between Twitch, Facebook, and Twitter, our livestream reached over 1.2 million people! More than 100,000 people contacted their lawmakers over the course of the day, many through a joint activism site coordinated by our friends at Demand Progress.
Check out the list below to see everyone who helped make this livestream truly epic, then head over to our Twitch channel to watch all 9 ½ hours of the livestream to catch up on everything you missed!
- Sarah Morris, OTI
- Douglas Crawford, ProPrivacy
- Stephen Blum, Tellus Venture Associates
- Jose Tro, U.S. Army Veteran
- Francella Ochillo, National Hispanic Media Coalition
- Steve Poikonen, Slow News Day
- Kunal Bhatia, SlidesUp
- Chris Mitchell, SlidesUp and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance
- Jeff Waldorf, Host of Around the Nation with TYT Nation
- Steven York, Producing Director and Teaching Artist at Steven York Productions
- Mike Linksvayer, GitHub
- Krish Mohan, Fork Full Of Noodles Podcast
- Mike Eagle, Musician and comedian
- Tara Devlin, Republican Dirty Tricks
- Amy Vilela, candidate featured in the Netflix documentary Knock Down the House
- Greg Palast, Journalist
- Sarah Schaaf, Imgur
- Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT At-Large)
- Left at London Musician, songwriter, and video creator
- Michael O’Neil, Green Way Forward
- Niko House, MCSC Network
- Steven Renderos, Center for Media Justice
- Fiorella Isabel, The Convo Couch
- Craig Pasta Jardulla, The Convo Couch
- FerociouslySteph, Streamer
- Ripley Violet, Streamer
- Graham Elwood, Political Vigilante
- Malcolm Fleschner, The Young Turks
- Baratunde Thurston, Writer, comedian
- Brigida Santos , Producer and host, The World According to Jesse
- Victoria Ruiz, Downtown Boys
- Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA 17th)
- Omar Hakim, Consumer Union
- Savage Joy, Real Progressives
- Shannon Thomas, activist featured in the Netflix documentary Knock Down the House
- Mark Stanley, Demand Progress
What’s next for net neutrality
There are a number of lawsuits pending against the FCC, and those court decisions could be pivotal in restoring net neutrality protections. Lawmakers may attempt to force a vote on net neutrality legislation during the upcoming appropriations process. Or perhaps the 2020 elections will shift the balance of political power away from obstructionists like Mitch McConnell, allowing politicians the opportunity to cross political lines and enshrine net neutrality into law.
Whatever happens next, June 11th was a pivotal moment in the fight for net neutrality. Our Epic Livestream brought together millions of people from across the Internet, and reminded lawmakers that we’re never going to stop fighting for free speech and free markets in the digital space.