When the Internet goes dark on 12 July, so should anthropology

I’ve written on this blog before about the Trump Administration’s recent changes to net neutrality rules. These rules will let your Internet Service Provider — your cable or mobile phone company — pick and chose what parts of the Internet you can view and how quickly video and webpages will load. As part of the campaign to stop these new rules, a massive coalition of non-profits, companies, and activist groups are planning a day of action to black out the net called ‘Battle for the Net’. Anthropology blogs and websites everywhere need to show solidarity and join this day of action.

The list of groups working on the 12 July action is mind-bogglingly large and diverse. Major content companies like Amazon and Netflix are supporting the action, as are hubs for cultural creators like KickStarter and Etsy. There are non-profits like the ACLU and the American Library Association. There are progressive groups like the The Nation and  MoveOn.org. There are groups focused on social justice for racialized minorities, like Color of Change, Race Forward, and the National Hispanic Media Coalition. And then there are the usual technology  non-profits: Creative Commons, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Fight for the Future (where I get most of my news about this issue from). How massive is the coalition behind this day of action? It contains partners as different as Greenpeace and PornHub, that’s how huge it is.

Actions like this have worked before. On 18 January 2012 the largest Internet protest in history saw over 115,000 websites strike in protest of two Internet censorship bills, SOPA and PIPA. They were shelved indefinitely as a result. On 10 September 2014 Internet Slowdown Day mobilized thousands of sites to protest changes to Net Neutrality rules. It worked! We got strong net neutrality regulations from the Obama administration. Now that Trump’s new FCC Chairman is trying to roll back these changes, we have another opportunity to show that grassroots campaigns can stop threats to the Internet, the platform on which we all rely for free and unfettered access to information.

Anthropologists need to get onboard. We’ve long recognized that open access is a central value for all scholars. But it’s particularly important for anthropologist, who write about the lives of people living in the here and now, whose circumstances can be changed as a result of our research. If Net Neutrality is rolled back, we will lose the platform that open access runs on.

If you are an anthropologist who runs a website or has any sort of social media presence, you should sign up today to join the Battle for the Net. If you are an anthropologist who doesn’t live in the US, your participation is even more important: We need a strong showing of global sites to send the message that the world is watching. If you’ve watched developments in our country with alarm, now is your chance to do something about it! Stand up and be counted in the Battle for the Net. Show Americans that we’re not alone in thinking its crazy to regulate the Internet in this way. It’s an important and — let’s face it — easy way to show the world where you stand.

This won’t be the last post that you’ll see from me about net neutrality — so stay tuned — but please don’t make me blog ’til I’m blue in the face (or fingers?) to get you involved. Send me an email or message on twitter or Facebook if you want get involved. There is a lot of momentum here, so I hope you’ll join me!


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at rex@savageminds.org