Verizon-Owned Tumblr Joins The Latest Effort To Restore Net Neutrality

Given Verizon's long-standing animosity to net neutrality (and openness and healthy competition in general), the company's acquisition of Tumblr created some understandable tension. Tumblr has been on the front lines of net neutrality support since around 2014 or so, with CEO David Karp stating in 2015 that the service wouldn't exist without net neutrality:

"(Undermining net neutrality) would congeal the Internet into something stagnant, something where new players wouldn’t be able to join the game without having the funds to do so. I’m proud to have been able to turn a little side project into an engine of creativity for so many people. I don’t want to be among the last people able to do that."

Karp resigned from the company last year, and numerous reports have indicated that while net neutrality advocacy remains strong among employees, the company itself has unsurprisingly lowered the volume of its support for net neutrality under new ownership by Verizon. That has resulted in a slow but steady departure of employees not thrilled to be under the "leadership" of one of the most anti-competitive (and occasionally comically delusional) companies on the tech policy front (former in-house counsel Ari Shahdadi being of particular note).

Despite Verizon's ownership the company's net neutrality advocacy doesn't appear to be dead just yet. This week, the company joined net neutrality advocates' "Operation: OneMoreVote" campaign. As we've noted, activists are trying to use the Congressional Review Act to reverse the FCC net neutrality repeal. Under the CRA, Congress can reverse a regulatory decision within 60 days of it hitting the Federal Register with a majority vote. The GOP and Trump administration used this exact trick to kill consumer broadband privacy protections early last year.

According to net neutrality advocacy group Fight for the Future, Tumblr will join Etsy, Reddit, Vimeo, Medium and other smaller companies in a February 27 effort to pressure lawmakers to support the effort in the Senate:

"50 Senators have already come out in support of the CRA, which would completely overturn the FCC’s December 14 decision and restore net neutrality protections. Several Senators have indicated that they are considering becoming the 51st vote we need to win, but they’re under huge pressure from telecom lobbyists. Only a massive burst of energy from the Internet will get them to move."

As noted previously, even if this effort passes the Senate it has an uphill climb in the House, where AT&T, Verizon and Comcast loyal politicians are in even greater supply. And even if the plan nabs the 218 House votes needed, it would still need to be signed by President Trump. And while activists believe Trump might bow to public pressure as part of his purported dedication to his special brand of "populism," that remains a bit of a pipe dream. That's not to suggest the effort is useless; it could go a long way toward forcing politicians to clearly document their disdain for the will of the public ahead of the looming midterms.

All of that said, it's good to see the remaining folks at Tumblr still fighting the good fight, despite the fact that they're now owned by a company with a historically-miserable track record on consumer privacy, state rights, competition, honesty, transparency and the quest for a relatively healthy and open internet.

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