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'Rutherford Betrayed You': Congressman Pushes Back Against Critical Billboards

Fight for the Future

President Donald Trump signed a bill last month overturning a ban on internet providers’ selling customer’s browsing histories.

Now, billboards are popping up around the country targeting members of Congress who voted for the measure.

One of them is Jacksonville Republican John Rutherford.

“Rutherford Betrayed You,” a billboard overlooking I-295 at Atlantic Boulevard reads. It’s sponsored by national nonprofitFight for the Future.

Its activists believe the rollback of the Obama-era rule is a violation of internet users’ privacy because it allows companies like Comcast to sell their browsing data.

“Yeah, I’m not sure I buy that argument, though,” Rutherford said.

The freshman legislator said the Federal Communications Commission’s previous rule was unnecessary regulation, and the Federal Trade Commission does a good job of policing telecom companies on its own. The FTC doesn't consider app or browsing data private information.

“The FTC has controlled regulation of the internet since its inception and they tried to overlay the FCC on top of that and quite frankly no one thought that was necessary,” he said.

Companies like Verizon argue allowing them access to users’ browsing data would make for a better internet experience, with more targeted ads. But opponents of the repeal argue it could result in companies’ charging a premium for more privacy, as theWashington Post reports.

The bill passed along party lines, with Republicans in favor. Fight for the Future’s Evan Greer told WJCT the majority of those who voted yes received money from telecom companies, with Rutherford’s being one exception.

LISTEN | This story is featured on Redux

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.