Spinning wheels of death are flooding popular websites Wednesday as part of Internet Slowdown Day. While Netflix, Foursquare, reddit, and other online hubs won't be slowed down, they'll feature loading icons in support of the cause for net neutrality.
Here's Netflix, with the wheel on the bottom right:
And Foursquare, with a similar placement:
According to the website for the movement, the wheels are meant to be symbolic, in an effort "to remind everyone what an Internet without net neutrality would look like, and drive record numbers of emails and calls to lawmakers." Net neutrality needs protection, advocates argue, and the Federal Communications Commission needs to enact regulations to do so. Without rules in place, Internet service providers like Comcast and Time Warner can charge content providers like Netflix to access "faster lanes" for said content.
But will tacking on some spinning wheels that don't slow down the site do anything beyond attracting some eyeballs?
That's the point, as Tim Karr, the campaign director for Free Press, told The Washington Post's Nancy Scola:
It's that scores of folks trolling the Internet Wednesday will see the spinning logo and recall their innate dislike of a slow-moving Internet. Then they will submit comments to the FCC by the Sept. 15 deadline for response comments. And Karr and others hope, the masses will contact their member of Congress to push for the FCC to go all-in on what's called Title II reclassification -- that is, regulating the Internet under the provisions of the law that apply to essential communications services.
The trolling, though, hasn't found unanimous support. Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation think tank, said in a press release the slowdown is "yet another scare tactic by techno-ideological advocates, pointing to the imaginary boogie man of 'slow lanes,' in their effort to push for utility-style regulation of the Internet." Atkinson concluded the movement is a form of "technological McCarthyism" and that real policy change will not come from Wednesday's movement:
The answers to these important and complex policy questions should be firmly grounded in technical reality and reasoned argumentation, not about who can generate the most form letters filed with the FCC."
Internet Slowdown Day also comes on the heels of New York candidate for lieutenant governor Tim Wu's Tuesday loss in the primary race. Wu is known for being the father of net neutrality, running on a tech-friendly platform, and faced an uphill battle in his campaign against former one-term congresswoman Kathy Hochul.