Play a Videogame Starring Jeb Zapping Startups, Killing Net Neutrality

Earlier this year, web advocates celebrated a big win when the Federal Communications Commission approved so-called net-neutrality rules. In essence, they prevented internet companies from speeding up certain big-money websites while slowing down others. 

Jeb Bush was not among those free-internet fighters dancing over the win. In fact, in September Bush promised he'd repeal the law if elected president.

Of course, pissing off web advocates has its consequences as well. And someone out there has responded to Bush's anti-net-neutrality stance by making a ridiculous videogame starring Jeb.

The game, which is called Net Neutrality Blaster and presumably is trying to bring attention to Bush's stance on the issue, can be played online only at provenconservative2016.com.

As the site opens, the screen becomes awash in an American flag and harks back to the 1980s with the sound of eight-bit music. Click "start," and the screen changes to a short narrative next to a headshot of Bush. "Destroy net neutrality" and "destroy all things it supports," it says.

You can read through the intro — a brief primer on advocates' claims that the rule protects innovation, startups, and web freedom — or skip directly to the blaster, which features a figure of a smoking Bush (or Pig Pen Bush, depending upon how you look at it).

The goal is use Bush's arm to blast the little blobs coming toward him. Some of them are labeled "net neutrality" or "streaming video" or "freedom of the press."

You start with $10,000 in a "funding" box at the top of the screen. Each time you land a shot, you gain $1,000 and the box explodes with dollar signs. However, each time you fire, it costs $500. Once you reach $20,000, you win the game and Bush gets elected.

It's not clear who cooked up the addictive web game. A simple domain search shows it's registered to a William Brierly who's based in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. New Times tried to contact Brierly through the phone number and email listed on the registry, but he hasn't responded. (It's possible he's the same William Brierly behind Soda Drinker Pro, a first-person soda-drinking game.)

Behind the jokes, of course, is a stance on net neutrality that critics say could destroy the web as we know it. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that concentrates on digital rights, advocates for net neutrality.

A lack of net neutrality could equal many problems for internet users. EFF's April Glaser wrote that it could interfere with access to privacy and encryption services. 

"We have a right to encrypt our communications because privacy is a human right, and it's protected by the U.S. Constitution," Glaser wrote in September 2014. "Without net neutrality, there's no telling what privacy-enabling tools will become unusable at the whim of internet providers."

The use of digital encryption has become an issue in light of recent mass shootings, particularly in Paris when gunmen from the self-proclaimed Islamic State brandished machine guns and homemade explosives and killed 130 people and injured more than 300.

Law enforcement officials such as FBI Director James Comey have said they want a "backdoor," or access, to encryption technology to prevent future attacks. 
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David Minsky is a U.S. Navy veteran and Tulane graduate who has experience reporting on stories from California, South Florida, and the Deep South. He has also won some journalism awards. Email or tweet David with story tips and ideas.
Contact: David Minsky