In His Last Two Weeks, Ajit Pai Finally Finds A Backbone And Refuses To Move Forward With Trump's Ridiculous 230 Attack

from the too-little-too-late dept

On Thursday, a day after his boss helped incite a mob to storm the Capitol, only then did outgoing FCC chair Ajit Pai finally “distance” himself from Trump and say he won’t go forward with Trump’s plan to have the FCC reinterpret Section 230.

In an interview on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators,” Pai told Protocol and C-SPAN co-host Peter Slen that he does not intend to move forward with a rule-making on Section 230, which was laid out in Trump’s social media executive order. He said he won’t “second-guess” the decisions made by Facebook and Twitter to bar Trump from posting. And he said the president bears some responsibility for the riots that engulfed Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Specifically on 230, this was the exchange:

On Oct. 15, you said that you intend to move forward with a rule-making for clarity on Section 230. What’s the status of that?

The status is that I do not intend to move forward with the notice of proposed rule-making at the FCC.

And why is that?

The reason is, in part, because given the results of the election, there’s simply not sufficient time to complete the administrative steps necessary in order to resolve the rule-making. Given that reality, I do not believe it’s appropriate to move forward.

If you could, what do you think should be done on Section 230?

There’s now a bipartisan consensus among elected officials that the law should be changed. Obviously the president believes it should be repealed, President-elect Biden has campaigned repeatedly on its repeal, but within Congress there appears to be a consensus also that it should be revised or reformed in some way. Obviously in terms of changing the law, that’s a decision for lawmakers to consider, but I do think there are certain bipartisan consensus areas forming regarding how it should be revised.

It’s a very complicated issue, one that I think Congress will have to study and deliberate on very seriously. I personally would think about it more carefully in terms of the immunity provision, for example, but those are the kinds of things that I think the next administration and Congress will think about very carefully.

He’s trying to escape this one with his reputation intact, and no one should let him get away with it. He could have spoken up earlier. He could have actually defended the 1st Amendment and the fact that internet websites have the right to moderate as they see fit. That’s what his ideologically aligned colleague on the FCC, Mike O’Rielly, did in calling out that social media moderation is not an issue for the government. Pai sat by and said nothing, and watched as his colleague, who had backed up every other nonsense position Pai has taken for years, got fired for it.

Then Pai could have done the correct thing and refused to even bother to take up the issue of CDA 230 after the NTIA, under orders from Trump, sent over a petition. He chickened out and asked for comments, wasting everyone’s time. Then, he could have taken those comments — in which every single substantial comment explained how he had no authority and shouldn’t be engaging at all — and decided not to move forward. But, he spinelessly moved forward with it anyway, pushing out a laughable legal justification that was diametrically opposed to everything he had said about the net neutrality issue.

It’s only now — with two weeks left in the Trump Presidency, after more and more people (including Republicans) have come to realize that maybe Trump is a destructive mess who helped incite a riot at the Capitol — that Pai pretends to find a backbone and push refuse to move forward on this issue. And he does it in the weakest possible way — saying that he’s run out of time. It’s a spineless move from someone who has spent nearly all of his years in public office publicly patting himself on the back for standing by his “keep government out of business” principles.

Obviously, Pai has made a political calculus here, and he’s hoping to slide away from this mess and the stench associated with it on the same day that a bunch of other Republicans hoping to revitalize their reputations are doing so as well. But it’s not principled to wait until the politically convenient point to do what you should have done months ago. The truth is simple: Pai isn’t the principled defender of “free markets” and “light touch regulation” he has positioned himself as over the years. He’s just another political hack who took the convenient path.

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Comments on “In His Last Two Weeks, Ajit Pai Finally Finds A Backbone And Refuses To Move Forward With Trump's Ridiculous 230 Attack”

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21 Comments
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Anonymous Coward says:

He’s just another political hack who took the convenient path.

He expects that a) he personally will be out of a job in 2 weeks anyway, and b) the new administration would look to reverse the ruling anyway.

It’s not that he grew a spine. It’s that he figures "there’s nothing in it for me to go through the motions."

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Liar and coward

Claiming there simply isn’t enough time and that’s why he’s not going forward with it is a statement so full of shit he could have fertilized several states with it. How long does it take to say ‘no, we do not have the authority to do this, and even if we did it would be unconstitutional for us to do so’ after all?

He’s trying to have it both ways and he absolutely deserves to be called out as the gutless, corrupt coward that he is for the attempt. He could have done the right thing(for once in his career) when the proposal was first presented to him like his former colleague did but he didn’t, instead he treated it as entirely legitimate and valid and merely delayed doing anything about it in the hopes that it would be a moot point come the election and that is not something he deserves praise or anything less than condemnation for.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Backbone? Hardly. He’s just another opportunist who did whatever Trump and his paymasters wanted when they had power, and now that it’s clear that he won’t get any support from those people and would like an industry job where he’s not the name behind a ruling that destroyed their bottom lines, he’s going that direction.

I’m sure Biden has more pressing issues and that he’s hardly going to be anyone’s friend on this issue, but I can’t imagine that the guy that Trump installed for openly political reasons is going to last a long time where he is now, so he’s making sure someone still wants to hire him.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Some" …? Try all. Which isn’t to say there isn’t enough to go around to all of Trump’s other toadies.

…that…is literally what "all" means. If someone has all of something, then nobody else has any of it.

Trump can’t have all the blame and also other people have some of the blame too. That’s not how having all of something works.

David Sanger (profile) says:

Perhaps a bit tangent to the topic but I see that today Apple gave notice to Parler that they should enact a moderation policy.

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/ryanmac/apple-threatens-ban-parler

My question is how does Sec 230 affect Apple with respect to 3rd party apps in the App Store?

Do they have the same liability protection as the app itself? Or are they protected in some other way? or not as protected?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Hmm, offhand it seems any attempt to blame Apple for content in one of the apps in their store would be a stretch as that’s a couple of layers removed, but I could see a lawsuit like that happening(not like stupid lawsuits are rare or anything…), and even though 230 would almost certainly protect them pair the potential risk with the PR issues of continuing to host the app and it would make sense for them to tell Parler ‘shape up or get lost’.

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