California man arrested for sending death threats to FCC’s Ajit Pai over net neutrality

While many people in this country are angry with current chairman of the FCC Ajit Pai, arguably with good reason, it’s unfortunate that at least one has descended to the level of sending credible death threats and, unsurprisingly, has subsequently been arrested.

Shortly after the FCC voted in December to nullify the agency’s 2015 net neutrality rules, Norwalk resident named Markara Man contacted Pai several times threatening him and his family.

According to a Justice Department press release, Man first told Pai that he was responsible for the death of a kid who had killed herself because of the loss of net neutrality. Next he sent a list of locations around Arlington, where the chairman lives, and threatening to kill members of his family. The third apparently was just an image of a framed photo of Pai’s family.

This clearly rises above the low-level — yet also deeply inappropriate — casual slurs against the chairman one sees in practically every discussion of FCC issues, including this website. As such it was investigated by the FBI, which traced the emails to Man’s location and confronted him.

He admitted to sending the emails in order to “scare” Pai, which I can only imagine it did. He’s been charged with the incredibly wordy crime of “threatening to murder a member of the immediate family of a U.S. official with the intent to intimidate or interfere with such official while engaged in the performance of official duties, or with the intent to retaliate against such official on account of the performance of official duties.” If convicted he could face up to 10 years, but that’s all up in the air still.

Listen: as you may be able to tell from TechCrunch’s own coverage of FCC issues and net neutrality (mostly by myself), I’m no fan of Chairman Pai’s, though I try my best to stick to the facts — which, helpfully, are also largely anti-Pai. But threatening the family of the man is, I hardly need say, taking it much too far. Not only is it reprehensible on its face, but it feeds a narrative of spite and ignorance that works counter to the very goals the threat-maker evidently espouses.

Net neutrality is a serious issue and the current administration’s elimination of the 2015 rules is a perfectly good reason to protest and, indeed, take Pai personally to task, since he is the foremost architect of our present situation. By all means call your elected officials, make net neutrality an issue in the 2018 midterms, and make your voice heard. But for everyone’s sake keep it civil.

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