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Comcast Affiliated News Site Censors Article About Internet Freedom

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Posted on Aug 1, 2014

Photo by IsaacMao (CC BY 2.0)

A “telecom industry-affiliated lobbying group successfully persuaded an African American news website to remove an article that reported critically on the groups” opposing Net neutrality, investigative journalist reports Lee Fang at Republic Report.

Fang wrote on Aug. 1:

Last Friday, I reported on how several civil rights groups, almost all with funding from Comcast, Verizon and other Internet Service Providers, recently wrote to the Federal Communication Commission in support of Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan, which would create Internet fast lanes and slow lanes, an effective death of Net Neutrality. That piece was syndicated with Salon and The Nation, and several outlets aggregated the article. For a short period, NewsOne, a news site geared towards the African American community, posted the piece along with its own commentary.

Then, the NewsOne article with my reporting disappeared.

The article shows up on a Google search but is revealed to be deleted if clicked on. The Internet cache still has a copy.

Fang continues:

According to discussions with several people at NewsOne, including an editor there, the decision to take down the article came from corporate headquarters. NewsOne editor Abena Agyeman-Fisher told Republic Report, “the company didn’t feel it was appropriate to have up and we were suppose to take it down.” NewsOne is owned by Radio One, a company with a 50.9% stake in a business partnership with Comcast known as TV One.

NewsOne was also contacted by a lobbying group called the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC), an organization that has gained infamy for frequently mobilizing Black, Latino and Asian American groups to advocate on behalf of telecom industry-friendly positions, including recent big media mergers. On Monday, according to an attendee at an MMTC conference, MMTC vice president Nicol Turner-Lee referred to my reporting as a “digital lynch mob.” Turner-Lee, who resigned her previous position at a nonprofit after allegations of financial impropriety, reportedly claimed that minority organizations that support Title II reclassification — the only path for effective Net Neutrality after a court ruling in January — are not “true civil rights leaders.”

MMTC President David Honig confirmed with Republic Report that he contacted NewsOne. When asked by Republic Report about the digital lynch mob comment, he responded via email: “I stand with Dr. Turner Lee’s assessment of the various hit pieces written by you and others. She spoke in the vernacular of the movement to which she has devoted her life, and is referencing the divide and conquer tactics used for decades to undermine the civil rights movement.” Honig agreed that no “true civil rights leaders” support reclassification, saying Lee “was correct. Not one of the leaders of the major national civil rights membership organizations has endorsed Title II reclassification.”

Fang says the opposite is true. “[M]any civil rights groups and activists support reclassification and strong Net Neutrality protections. Reached by Republic Report, the organizations were livid about MMTC’s insults and the decision by NewsOne to retract its story.”

Read more here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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