The internet, the government and the generation gap

During the first week of April, the U.S. president signed a piece of legislation eliminating rules that require internet service providers to receive your consent before selling your potentially sensitive information to tech companies. This list of potentially sensitive information includes your geo-location, children’s information, health information, social security number, financial information, app-usage history, content communication and, yes, your much-sacred web browsing history.

I want to say the killing of these rules is surprising or shocking, but this is more or less what I’ve come to expect from the political climate. The current administration has proven itself quite keen to roll back on regulations set up by the previous administration. I was, however, a little surprised at how under the radar this all seemed to happen. The passing of this rollback was able to be kept on the down-low while we were focused on the GOP’s unsuccessful attempt to pass its own health care bill and its more “successful” SCOTUS nomination. Many of us seemed to have our attention elsewhere, unfortunately. Pretty sneaky.

Much like I did with Scott Pruitt’s unfortunately successful nomination, I found myself looking to see which representatives and senators gave this the okay and helped it pass. In the Senate, it passed 50–48 with no votes for the legislation from Democrats or Independents, while in the House of Representatives it passed 215–205, with all 190 Democrats and 15 Republicans voting in opposition of the legislation. Oregon’s Sens. Merkley and Wyden and Reps. Bonamici, DeFazio, Blumenauer and Schrader all voted in opposition, while Oregon Rep. Walden voted in favor of the legislation. In Alaska, my home state, Sens. Murkowski and Sullivan and Rep. Don Young voted in favor of the legislation. I can’t say I’m surprised, but I am disappointed and angry all the same.

One thing that fascinates me about this legislature is that, from my perspective, public opinion didn’t seem to be as divided as parties were. I don’t know anyone who liked this legislation. Alaskans that I know all seemed to despise the idea of our browsing history being sold. Even Alaskans who voted for Donald Trump called senators and representatives, urging them to vote against this legislation. People like their privacy. Yet Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young voted for it anyway.

So what does this mean about senators and representatives who voted in favor of this legislation? Either they didn’t care about their constituents, got big paychecks, don’t care about or understand the internet’s importance, or some terrible combination of the three. Any way, it’s disgraceful and discouraging.

It also serves as a reminder of the generation gap between young voters, politicians, and, well, the larger media—that is, the 24-hour news cycle. I don’t think I’m overstepping when I say that politicians and mainstream broadcast media don’t necessarily understand the importance or influence the internet has on younger voters, and they have rarely had a good idea of how to deal with and address topics related to the internet. In turn, it’s hard for young voters to find the proper way to address our concerns and investments in the internet and translate that to larger platforms.

As the rollback on net neutrality devolves further and further, I hope that we start paying more attention and keep raising our voices louder and louder.

Click here and here for video resources, and click here and here for online resource, to better understand net neutrality and start protecting it.

Click here for a resource on Senate Democrats’ proposed bill to restore internet privacy rules.