Net neutrality is the internet’s guiding principle. It calls for an internet that supports free speech. It protects your ability to communicate online. It means that ISPs (internet service providers) are obligated to maintain open networks. They shouldn’t block or manipulate content. The same rationale applies to your cable company. It’s none of their business what you watch and how much television you consume. Just as your phone company shouldn’t decide who you call and what you say, your ISP shouldn’t interfere with what’s on the internet.
An “artificially generated stampede” is a term that does not currently exist. I have a strong hunch that one day this will change. At some future point in time, an individual or group, will deliberately attempt to create a cellular-induced panic resulting in a human stampede.
So why would this happen?
A philosophical version — If you take a long-term event horizon, there’s a discernible inevitability in the realm of generational warfare.
The adult explanation — It’s a cost effective way to inflict terror and randomly kill and maim innocent civilians.
A child’s perspective — Bad people do mean things.
Let’s examine both issues through the lens of net neutrality. Rather than getting bogged down in the details, I’ll make a few generalizations. Since its inception, the internet has generally been viewed as the “technological wild wild west.” Anything goes. Reigning in net neutrality would chip away at this perception. The Trump administration wishes to give a greater degree of micro-managerial authority to the internet service providers. Companies like Comcast and Verizon would exercise greater power in managing what content we see online and the manner in which it’s viewed. It would put them in a position to potentially determine winners and losers. In a broader sense, eliminating net neutrality increases the authority of private industry and seeks to scale back government oversight. It markedly shifts the power to control the internet from big government to the private sector.
I think it’s reasonable to draw the following conclusion: As this transition evolves, private companies would be emboldened to seek greater profit from the sale of information. Sound familiar? It should. Lots of pop-up ads, time sensitive offers, emails, text messages and so on.
So how would this play itself out in the current divisive political climate?
I imagine the general tenor of the argument would go something like this:
Republicans — We need to unleash the power of capitalism. The internet is better off without extensive government regulation. Just because Walmart knows your toilet paper preference, that’s really not a big deal. Get over it! You’re not that important. Markets need to function efficiently!
Democrats — Online privacy is paramount. We can’t live in a world where all of our personal information is gathered up by big business, bought and sold to the highest bidder. We don’t wish to be targeted with endless advertisements based on automated profiles. Welcome to George Orwell’s corporate version of 1984!
Independents — There’s merit in both arguments. Not everything is black and white.
So here’s a likely real world scenario.
Let’s say I go to Heinz Field for a future Steelers game. With the current state of the internet, I might see a few things pop up in my social media feed. Maybe I’ll get an unsolicited text message offering up a free appetizer at a nearby restaurant. Or perhaps a generous discount on a personalized jersey. But for the most part, the degree of cellular intrusiveness is relatively benign. Some people appreciate that. Others want more overtures.
However, if net neutrality is degraded, over time, I expect people would be bombarded with a greater number of unsolicited offers and super deals. Targeted merchandise galore. Once again, some people would appreciate the potential savings. Others would not.
Would a shift in net neutrality directly impact the AGSAF website (Artificially Generated Stampede Awareness Foundation)? Honestly, it’s hard to say. The site might be more likely to get throttled (intentionally slowed down). Probably over hypothetical litigation concerns. But I kinda doubt it. Because my website is not designed to generate revenue. It deals with three major components — cyber-security, public safety and fundamental human rights. Its overriding mission is to enhance situational awareness and prevent injury and potential loss of life. But at the same time, it also lays out a thorough blueprint for indiscriminately killing innocent civilians. Suffice it to say, neither government nor private industry would directly benefit from acknowledging the site’s existence. Quite the contrary, in the aftermath of a tragedy, it would likely raise some ugly concerns with respect to plausible deniability. So regardless of the current direction of net neutrality, I expect there would be no demonstrable impact.
However, if my concerns about the artificially generated stampede came to fruition. Well, that trajectory would immediately change. Why? Because people would want to know who exactly perpetrated such an insidious act. Where did the list of cell phone numbers come from? Who had the list? Please note: This is vastly more complicated than a lengthy list of cell numbers. It’s extremely doubtful everything would be that simplistic.
All the customary journalistic questions would surface… Who, what, when, where, why and how.
I suspect, that in the aftermath of a cellular-induced panic resulting in an artificially generated stampede, many people would shout a one-word, common refrain… CONSPIRACY. Even though the actual panic was likely the result of an exponentially-driven, decentralized hoax. Many would ask, “Alright, someone must have had a master list of cell phone numbers. How did they get their hands on it? Where did it come from?” Then the conspiracy theories would start rolling in.
Was it Iran? Was it the North Koreans? Could it be Russia? China? Or a guy sitting on his bed who weighs 400 pounds?
Was it our own government? A deep state operative? The FCC, NSC, US Cyber-Command or one of the other federal acronyms?
Was it the cell phone companies? The internet service providers? Facebook? Google?
I suspect the American people would be exposed to these conspiratorial theories in perpetuity from every direction conceivable. A black swan event of this magnitude would literally be the gift that keeps on giving. It would be the equivalent of a “conspiracy Christmas parade.” Every single day thereafter, revelers endlessly embracing the reason for the season.