A digital rights advocacy group says it was threatened by Comcast lawyers after launching a website that is organizing an investigation into allegedly fake anti-net neutrality comments submitted to the FCC.
Fight for the Future, which operates Comcastroturf.com, accused the cable giant of censorship on Tuesday after receiving a cease and desist letter that said the group was infringing on its trademark. The letter, sent by LookingGlass Cyber Security Center, demanded the Comcastroturf domain name be reassigned to Comcast because it violates the law by using a domain name that is "identical or confusingly similar to someone else's trademark.
"Our client, however, is prepared to resolve this matter amicably and without pursuing its claims for damages, but only if you immediately comply with its demands," the letter said.
Fight for the Future, a pro-net neutrality group, calls the claims "baseless" and says the site name is a form of First Amendment-protected political speech. It goes on to claim that the letter aims to stifle its efforts to expose questionable anti-net neutrality comments that flooded the FCC.
"If companies like Comcast are funding this type of illegal activity, their customers and the general public deserve to know about it," Evan Greer, Fight for the Future's campaign director, said in a statement. "If they're not funding it, they should condemn these fake comments and tell the FCC to disregard them."
Comcast said it had decided not to pursue the claim any further. It also said that it began sending its cease and desist letters on May 17, three days after Comcastroturf.com was registered and before the site had published any content.
Fight for the Future didn't immediately respond to a request for further comment.
Net neutrality is the principle that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally, regardless of whether you're checking Facebook, posting pictures to Instagram or streaming movies from Netflix or Amazon. Under a new proposal, the FCC would throw out the legal underpinnings of the net neutrality order, which reclassified broadband as a so-called Title II utility service under the Communications Act.
"Comcast supports strong, legally enforceable net neutrality rules and does not and will not block websites or content. Title II does not equal net neutrality," Comcast said in a statement. "Like most major brand owners, Comcast protects our company and brand names from being used improperly on the Internet by third parties."
Updated 5/24 at 8 a.m. PT with Comcast statement.
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