Telecoms’ ‘Fake Grassroots’ Push Net Misinformation

Diligent media reformers Free Press (8/19/09) have announced a nifty new “online interactive tool to expose phony grassroots groups hired by big phone and cable companies to advance their political agenda.” They’re talking about “‘astroturf‘ organizations–many of which also work for the health insurance, energy and tobacco industries”– that “are mobilizing to spread misinformation about Network Neutrality and Internet policies.”

The group’s graphic presentation “tracks the huge amounts of money that phone and cable companies spend on lobbyists and campaign contributions” and

reveals the contradictory and dishonest claims about Net Neutrality and other issues from top industry executives; and it puts a spotlight on the deceptive activities of groups like FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, NetCompetition and the Heartland Institute.

“The fake grassroots groups are spending major resources to deceive the public and promote agendas of the corporations that sign their paychecks,” said Timothy Karr, campaign director of Free Press. “We need transparency, accountability and honest debate. The crucial policy decisions being made right now about the future of the Internet must be based on independent research, reliable data and facts. The phone and cable companies must stop distorting the issues and hiding behind their astroturf groups, sock puppets and hired shills.”

Along with exposing astroturf groups, the interactive tool features “The Money Trail,” which tabulates spending by big phone and cable on an army of lobbyists to push their agenda in Washington.

Some disturbing totals from the past two years: “Comcast spent more than $45 million on campaigns and lobbying,” which otherwise “could have provided one year of broadband service to 150,000 households”; and Time Warner Cable spent $24 million on lobbying, instead of potentially having “subsidized 100,000 low-income households for one year of broadband service.”