Hands Off the Internet

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

Hands Off the Internet describes itself as "a nationwide coalition of Internet users united together in the belief that the Net's phenomenal growth over the past decade stems from the ability of entrepreneurs to expand consumer choices and opportunities without worrying about government regulation." [1]

Given the involvement of ex-Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry, it seems likely that either, or both, Public Strategies, Inc. and astroturf specialist Grassroots Enterprise, Inc. played roles in the formation of the organization. [2]

There is no mention of the issue of network neutrality anywhere on the organization's website. It presents itself as being against any government regulation of the Internet on principle [3]. However, according to the rival SavetheInternet.com Coalition, HOTI was set up specifically to oppose moves by Congress to legislate for mandatory network neutrality [4]. Unlike HOTI, SavetheInternet.com has no industry funding, although some of its members represent small businesses [5].

Member organizations

This organization has been described as a classic astroturf group. Its website does disclose its industry membership, and its connection to Public Strategies, Inc.. But its homepage only describes itself as "a nationwide coalition of Internet users," giving a misleading impression of grassroots support.

HOTI's membership is dominated by telecommunications companies and conservative lobby groups. As of April 2006, its members were [6]:

HOTI advertising

The bulk of HOTI's financial support comes from the newly re-formed AT&T, which has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into HOTI ad campaigns, including extensive advertising buys across the blogosphere and in mainstream and beltway press. Nowhere throughout these ads is it disclosed that the effort is funded by the nation's largest telecommunications companies and lobbyists. Instead, HOTI ads are fashioned to look and feel like genuine grassroots efforts, backed by broad popular suport. This deceptive practice is most evident in an animated segment at www.dontregulate.org [7], produced by HOTI for broad dissemination via blog ad placements. Critics across the blogosphere and at SavetheInternet.com have condemned this animated ad as "a clever piece of industry propaganda that is riddled with half-truths and outright lies." [8] [9]

Co-chairmen

As of April 2006, HOTI co-chairs were [10]:

HOTI Co-Chair Mike McCurry, former White House Press Secretary under President Clinton, has come under intense criticism for working on behalf of large telecommunications companies to oppose network neutrality. McCurry's stance puts him at odds with the nation's largest consumer advocate and public interest groups -- and earned him the dersion of many for acting as a spokesperson for a position that has limited support beyond the cable and telephone lobby. Leading the criticism of McCurry are bloggers at Huffington Post [11], MyDD [12] and MediaCitizen [13].

Contact details

Post Office Box 3840
Arlington, VA 22203-0840
Tel: +1 800 619-5268
Email: info AT handsoff.org
Website: http://www.handsofftheinternet.com
(source)

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