The biggest buzzword in today’s tech politics is no doubt, net neutrality. Millions are talking about it, even though many don’t understand what it means, not really. But that hasn’t stopped people from trying to explain it, as least well enough to get others to sign petitions and get on board online.
Enthusiasm is high, and now many tech companies are answering the bell, coming out swinging in support of net neutrality. The group effort was in support of what was called a “Day of Action” which had the hopes of convincing the FCC that net neutrality – defined by the current regulations on the internet that require all internet providers to deal with all content equally – is the only way to go. If these regulations go, companies and consumers fear that providers will amp up their service speed and slow the service speed of the competition.
So, which tech companies came out in support of net neutrality? Some of the big names may be surprising. Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook posted about it on their account feeds. Google tweeted information about the cause, and even Netflix got a word in, adding a banner to its web page to remind consumers to care and take action on net neutrality.
Amazon remained somewhat noncommittal, directing users to a kind of FAQ article, while many other companies directed visitors to an “informational” page sponsored by the Internet Association, which represents many large technology businesses. Others directed concerned consumers to the official FCC comment page, where public comments about net neutrality are currently being accepted. At least they were until July 17.
The biggest challenge on this issue is communication. If your narrative is too techy and detailed, it will fly over the average consumer’s head. However, if it’s too basic and general, the other side can make hay by accusing you of broad brushing or playing fast and loose with “the facts.”
The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle, and perhaps that’s why so many pro-net-neutrality groups and companies are resorting to memes and gifs. Combining simple narratives with graphic representations that connect with users is a good way to get the message across in an easily sharable format. Sure, some of the message might be lost, but, in trade, you get passion and action – which is exactly what juices movements online. You want people motivated to talk, click, and share…then talk some more.
One of the simplest, though perhaps not the most effective, memes floating around lately says: “If you’re not freaking out about net neutrality, you’re not paying attention.”
While blunt and combative, this message captures a compelling tone, because it plants the idea in the head of the viewer that, at least maybe, they really aren’t as informed as they may be on the issue. Will it turn some people off? Likely, but it’s also likely many of those people wouldn’t be interested enough in the first place.
The biggest question now is will the pro-neutrality message inspire enough people to sway Congress. We’ll know about that soon enough. In the meantime, the margin of error for messaging on this issue is shrinking with each passing day.