Williams Looks at Effect of Comedy on Public Awareness of Net Neutrality

A new article co-authored by doctoral student Alexander Williams linked a skit on the comedy program Last Week Tonight with John Oliver to dramatically increased public awareness of the debate surrounding net neutrality.

“What drove spike in public comments on net neutrality? Likely, a comedian,” was written by Williams and Martin Shelton from the Pew Research Center’s FactTank: News in the Numbers.

Williams and Shelton were able to demonstrate that a spoke of nearly 450,000 comments received by the Federal Communications Commission on the topic of net neutrality was linked directly to John Oliver’s skit.

“While other researchers analyzed the content of the comments, we focused on the volume and submission dates of when the FCC received comments from the public in order to deduce possible influences on the public’s response,” Williams and Shelton wrote. “While some evidence suggests that the amount of news media coverage mirrored that of the public’s comments, our analysis found that more likely drivers were grassroots efforts, as well as a popular comedian’s 13-minute segment on net neutrality that aired on cable television and found a large audience online.”