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The Technology 202

A newsletter briefing on the intersection of technology and politics.

Poll finds Republican voters support bringing back net neutrality

The Technology 202

A newsletter briefing on the intersection of technology and politics.


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Below: Facebook says the Uvalde, Tex., shooter used its platform, and Twitter settles with federal regulators.

Polls finds Republicans voters support bringing back net neutrality

Nearly two-thirds of Republican voters support reinstating federal net neutrality regulations when presented with detailed arguments for and against the move, according to a new survey from the University of Maryland shared exclusively with The Technology 202.

The findings show a contrast between Republican voters and their elected representatives on Capitol Hill, where Republicans have been seeking to block a Democratic nominee whose confirmation would likely pave the way for the return of the rules.

For the poll, the University of Maryland Program for Public Consultation provided respondents with a policy briefing laying out arguments on both sides of the net neutrality debate and then asked them which they found more persuasive and would ultimately support. The rules would block Internet service providers from throttling or favoring certain content.

According to the poll, 65 percent of Republicans favored reinstating net neutrality regulations, while nearly 68 percent of independents and 82 percent of Democrats said the same. Only 32 percent of Republican voters said they were opposed, while 2 percent said they did not know.

“Clearly, this is one more illustration of how there is not a correspondence between public opinion and policy,” said Steven Kull, a senior research associate at the school.

The survey also found that both Democratic and Republican respondents found the arguments outlined in favor of reinstating net neutrality to be more persuasive than the case against it.

While 74 percent of Republicans said they found the case in favor “very convincing” or “somewhat convincing,” that figure dropped to 57 percent for the argument against. “We think that this gives you a much clearer picture of how people feel about this question” and “this ensures that they hear both sides of it,” Kull said of the survey design.

And he said they felt compelled to revisit these questions given that the debate is entering a pivotal stretch, with the pending nomination of Gigi Sohn for the Federal Communications Commission raising the specter of Democrats at the agency reviving the rules. “This is an inflection point,” Kull said.

The findings largely mirror a similar poll the school conducted in 2017, as the FCC of the Trump era prepared to repeal the Internet regulations.

Support for net neutrality slightly diminished in the new poll compared with the findings in 2017, when three out of four Republican voters said they opposed Republican plans to repeal the rules. But Kull said that could likely be attributed to “status quo bias,” or the notion that there is a tendency to prefer to keep things the same or, in this case, to maintain the repeal.

The agency, then led by Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, pushed back on the findings in 2017, calling it a “biased survey” that did not take into account factors including the role of the Federal Trade Commission in policing anticompetitive conduct by Internet service providers.

Kull said that in response to that criticism, they reran the study in 2018 and incorporated those arguments. They found the same result, he said, with overwhelming bipartisan support for net neutrality. And they incorporated the same arguments into their latest poll, he said. “That argument was clearly not effective in moving attitudes,” he said.

The online poll surveyed a random sample of over 2,700 registered voters, provided by market research firm Nielsen Scarborough, between January and February.

Asked about the 2017 poll, Evan Swarztrauber, a senior adviser at the Lincoln Network and former adviser to Pai, said the way the survey described the argument in favor of net neutrality was based on “hyperbolic” rhetoric about repealing the rules.

“I would support net neutrality based on this description,” said Swarztrauber, who served as an adviser to Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr during the repeal.

“Now it is generally at least accepted in the tech policy world that the worst predictions that were made were completely over the top,” he said, adding that the key debate is over what legal mechanisms people think should be used to regulate Internet service.

Kull said the goal of the surveys has been to simulate the policymaking process and present voters with the strongest arguments for both sides. “If they believe that there is some key argument that would make a real difference, we want to make sure that it is in there,” he said of the net neutrality opponents at the FCC.

Our top tabs

Uvalde gunman sent direct messages about attack, Facebook says

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Salvador Rolando Ramos posted on the social media site that he was “going to shoot an elementary school” shortly before the attack. But Ramos actually sent “private one-to-one text messages that were discovered after” he killed 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone tweeted. The messages were sent privately, Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said, but Osborne declined to say which platform they were sent on, my colleagues Naomi Nix and Rachel Lerman report.

Facebook parent Meta also operates Instagram and WhatsApp.

“It’s unclear if Ramos made public posts that could have hinted at the shooting on any social media platform,” Naomi and Rachel write. “The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District has previously used an artificial intelligence-backed program to scan social media posts for potential threats years before the attack.” It’s not clear whether the “Social Sentinel” program was in use at the time of the shooting. Social Sentinel owner Navigate360 didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Twitter collected personal information to boost user security but used it for advertising, regulators say

Twitter will pay $150 million to settle allegations that it deceptively used contact information like email addresses and phone numbers to target advertising, Cat Zakrzewski reports. Twitter told users that it was collecting that data to secure accounts, including through multifactor authentication and for recovering passwords.

The FTC also alleged that “Twitter used the phone numbers and email addresses to allow advertisers to target specific ads to specific consumers by matching the information with data they already had or obtained from data brokers.”

Twitter will be barred from profiting off the “deceptively collected” data and has to tell users that it used their phone numbers and email addresses for advertising purposes, according to a news release. The company will also have to introduce a new privacy program that will require it to review new products’ security risks.

The company said in a blog post that “keeping data secure and respecting privacy is something we take extremely seriously, and we have cooperated with the FTC every step of the way.” The company first announced that it had “inadvertently” mishandled email and phone numbers for advertising in 2019.

Video reportedly shows Apple retail chief discouraging workers from voting for unionization

In a video distributed to Apple retail employees, vice president of retail and people Deirdre O’Brien argued that unions don’t share Apple’s commitment or relationship with its workers, and that unionizing could “make it harder for us to act swiftly to address things that you raise,” Motherboard’s Lauren Kaori Gurley reports.

The speech comes as three Apple retail stores prepare to vote on whether to unionize. The first of the stores, which is located in Georgia, is set to begin voting next week, the Verge previously reported.

“Apple has not publicly said that it opposes unionization, but … [company] talking points along with the video suggest that Apple opposes unionization efforts at the company,” Lauren writes. The company declined to comment to Motherboard.

Rant and rave

Tech journalists weren’t impressed by Apple retail chief Deirdre O’Brien’s video seeking to dissuade workers from voting to unionize. Recode’s Rani Molla:

TechCrunch+ editor in chief Alex Wilhelm:

Yahoo News's Francis Whittaker:

Inside the industry

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Twitter didn’t address Elon Musk’s takeover during shareholder meeting (Elizabeth Dwoskin and Gerrit De Vynck)

An ocean first: Underwater drone tracks CO2 in Alaska gulf (Associated Press)

Agency scanner

Spy agency awards ‘historic’ contracts to commercial satellite firms (Christian Davenport)


How to stay up-to-date on terrible news without burning out (Heather Kelly)


  • FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington discusses net neutrality at an R Street Institute event today at 3 p.m.
  • The R Street Institute hosts an event on the path forward for a federal privacy law on June 1 at noon.
  • The Atlantic Council hosts an event on the upcoming election for secretary general of the International Telecommunications Union on June 2 at noon.

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