The WSJ Showing Its Cards

By now everyone knows about the Wall Street Journal’s shoddy net neutrality hit piece.

The article went to great lengths to conjure that Net Neutrality support was waning among its most ardent supporters — Google, Lessig, Obama and others had all said or done things “recently” that indicated they were no longer pushing as hard for the net to stay neutral.

In the last two days, virtually every individual mentioned in the piece has come out against the WSJ and argued that either their positions were misinterpreted or that their quotes were taken out of context.

The WSJ has claimed that their piece has “gotten a rise out of the blogosphere” and has not issued any retractions or corrections to the article.

Other bloggers are commenting on the particular misunderstandings and misinformation in the article, but I’m interested in analyzing the WSJ’s behavior as I believe it is symptomatic of a larger affliction of the newspaper.

Here are some things I think are noteworthy about the situation:

  • The WSJ initially discredited the blogosophere as a legitimate voice in this debate.
    Would they have said that they “got a rise out of the newspaper industry” if they had written an article that got the NYTimes, Washington Post and CNN complaining about inaccuracies? Rise probably isn’t the right word, as Jay Rosen said.
  • This seems to be an example of mainstream press trolling bloggers.
    Typically, bloggers are the ones accused of trolling the mainstream press.
  • Both the original article and the follow up posts are outside the WSJ’s paywall.
    Further evidence of the desire to troll the blog world.
  • The comment system for WSJ is plagued by spam.
    This indicates an immature and underdeveloped comment community. This is not to say that the WSJ should start heavily moderating their comments, just that they obviously don’t seem to care about them.
  • The general attitude of Us vs. The Internet of the article and responses indicates a deep misunderstanding of conversations on the net.
    The net is no longer a community in and of itself; it holds digital representations of an infinite amount of communities that exist in reality. Things used to be otherwise, but to still think so demonstrates a dated perspective.
  • WSJ’s technology writers are either vastly under-skilled for such reporting or are interested in remaining ignorant of the real issues.
    Even if one could make the specious argument that Edge caching does violate network neutrality (and I don’t think anyone believes it does) it wouldn’t be doing so in the same way the telecommunications companies are interested in violating network neutrality. Edge caching does not violate network neutrality in the same way the telecommunications companies are interested in violating network neutrality. More specifically, Google’s movements to place caches at ISP level is not as controversial as the WSJ would like it to be. Despite having many opportunities to get the story right, the WSJ has repeatedly ignored the technological subtlety of the details and has misquoted others who were trying to set it straight.

Network neutrality is one of the primary reasons why digital journalism is viable, and the reason why newspapers are threatened online, so there is no surprise the WSJ sees the principle as a threat: they think it is in their interest to do so.

As Gandhi put it:

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”

  1. “Edge caching does not violate network neutrality in the same way the telecommunications companies are interested in violating network neutrality.”

    Be careful how you say things. This sentence seems to say that edge caching does violate network neutrality, just not in the same way. Are you trying to say that edge caching violates network neutrality?

  2. Good point. I’ve amended the above post to reflect this.

  3. But what edge caching does, is that practically, companies that can afford it, will still benefit from different restrictions which may or may not be implemented at the ISP level.
    In other words – I understand the point about how good it is, but at the same time, people must be aware that whoever has more money, will ensure that their information gets faster ;)

  4. Don’t forget that edge caching saves the whole Internet bandwidth by caching files locally at the ISP level.

    This will become more and more important as more high bandwidth content like video is transmitted over the tubes. It’s good for everyone when Google and other large content providers like Akamai, Bright Cove, etc utilize edge caching. Yes, it benefits those companies and their customers, but it also benefits those of us who do not use their products. Instead of large amount of data be transmitted from data centers around the world, much of that data can be cached much closer to individual users.

  5. […] a case of not thinking critically enough about sources and evidence based reporting. Either way, if the network neutrality article didn’t give you enough reason to distrust the WSJ’s te…, this incident should. This also leads me to believe that the WSJ has under-critical technology […]

  6. That’s a good summary. Just a note: it’s *Gandhi*, not “Ghandi”. (Also, the previous comment appears to be spam.)

  7. MK, fixed, Thanks!

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