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

Say had roles been reversed, edge would have been outraged

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

In a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Tuesday (July 25), Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said they were deeply troubled by reports that Twitter had blocked tweets and retweets of the AT&T public policy blog posted July 11.

AT&T said it was unable to Tweet the blog post, in which senior executive vice president Bob Quinn wrote that AT&T was joining the July 12 Day of Action protest in support of an Open Internet, but not the Title II regime the protest was established to support. Edge providers Twitter, Google, Amazon and others participated in the pro-Title II protest.

An AT&T source at the time said the timing of the twitter "block" — the telco supplied screen grabs of the failed efforts — seemed "odd.” Legislators Johnson and Blunt 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 in the letter. 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," the senators told Dorsey.

Republicans, including House Communications Subcommittee chair Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) during Tuesday's FCC reauthorization hearing, have pointed out, pointedly, that Twitter, Amazon and other large edge providers participated ini the protest alongside Pornhub and activist groups, suggesting that 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 wrote. "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 main 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 regulations.