Senators Troubled by Twitter 'Glitch' on AT&T Blog

A pair of Republican legislators say they are deeply troubled by Twitter's blocking of lawful content, in this case AT&T's blog on network neutrality.

In a letterTuesday to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Roy Blunt of Missouri said they were deeply troubled by the reports that Twitter had blocked tweets and retweets of the AT&T public policy blog. 

Two weeks ago, AT&T said it was unable to tweet the July 11 blog post from executive Bob Quinn that AT&T was joining the net neutrality day of action in support of an open internet but not the Title II regime the action day was established to support by Title II fans. Twitter, Google, Amazon and many other edge providers participated in the July 12 pro-Title II protest day.

An AT&T source at the time said the timing of the twitter "block"—they supplied screen grabs of the failed efforts—seemed "odd.” 

The legislators agreed. "The inimical blocking of lawful content that may be at odds with one's own point of view is an affront to free expression and violates the fundamental concept of net neutrality," they said. It is also one of the issues driving Title II fans like Twitter and Amazon, a point not lost on Johnson or Blunt. 

A Twitter spokesperson had described the issue as a glitch that had been fixed. "It is not difficult to imagine the outrage that would have occurred had an internet service provider (ISP) experienced a 'glitch' that blocked Twitter or any other content providers that participated in the Day of Action," they told Dorsey.

Republicans have pointed out the participation of Twitter, Amazon and others alongside PornHub (House Communications Subcommittee chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) invoked that connection in a hearing with FCC commissioners this week) and activist groups in the protest, suggesting the alliance was not helpful in advancing a compromise solution. 

"We hope that Twitter and other technology companies will partner with Congress on a real solution to codify open internet principles," they said. "You do not deed a day of action to get Republicans to the negotiating table. We sit ready and waiting for a real, factually informed discussion."

Some Democrats are skeptical about that willingness to compromise. But the principle sticking point is probably that Democrats see Title II as the key to strong protections, while Republicans share ISPs' view that it is a nuclear option, a last-century straight-jacket and the first step toward potential rate regs.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.