The Pai FCC Is Oddly Quiet About Trump's Plan To Have The Agency Police Speech

from the selective-silence dept

So last week, you probably saw the leaked plan by the Trump administration to try and "fix" the nonexistent censorship of Conservatives on social media. According to the leak, a large part of the plan would involve having the FCC, which has no real authority in this area, police speech on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Most legal experts I've spoken to say the plan is illegal and utterly nonsensical, and the FCC has no authority to do this under Section 230 or anywhere else. The order would also undermine most of the logic the Pai FCC used in its effort to repeal net neutrality.

Oddly though, an FCC that has been very vocal on this subject when convenient has been oddly mute since the story broke, with none of the agency's three Republican Commissioners (Ajit Pai, Brendan Carr, or Mike O'Rielly) making so much as a peep about the terribleness of the latest Trump "plan."

This kind of silence is uncharacteristic. O'Rielly, for example, was positively apoplectic recently when he proclaimed (falsely) that community broadband posed a dire threat to free speech. Carr has similarly expressed great disdain previously at the idea of government regulating speech on social media platforms, and hyperventilates over telecom sector free speech rights any time someone even faintly suggests giants like Comcast should be held accountable for decades of abysmal service:

Then there's Pai, who attacked net neutrality extensively by insisting it was the equivalent of the Fairness Doctrine, the exact type of solution Trump is now proposing for social media. Pai has routinely tried to play both sides of this debate, insisting he's a stalwart defender of free speech, yet demonizing platforms like Twitter for nonexistent censorship when it makes for a good sound byte. He's also repeatedly stated we can't possibly hold bumbling monopolies like AT&T and Comcast accountable on the state or federal level because it would violate their First Amendment rights (a belief those companies share).

All of this endless hand wringing over free speech, and yet when the President of the United States says he wants to use the FCC to police speech on social media (again with near zero authority to do so), all three of these free speech patriots are suddenly quiet.

And while you could argue that they didn't comment because the plan hasn't been made official yet, that didn't stop them from loudly deriding a similarly undercooked, leaked plan by the Trump administration to nationalize the nation's 5G networks. That plan was largely just the lobbyist brain fart of a Peter Thiel-backed company named Rivada Networks (supported by folks like Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich), yet Carr, O'Rielly, and Pai all had plenty to say about the unworkability of that plan (largely because such a plan is AT&T and Verizon's worst nightmare).

The trio's fellow commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel offered up what was probably the most concise reaction to having the FCC police Facebook and Twitter:

As many have surmised this could all amount to a giant hill of bupkis. The administration may have just been floating a trial balloon that has now, clearly, popped. After all, in the Trump era you can never tell what's serious policy and what's the passing brain fart of whoever has the President's ear at one particular moment.

Still, you'd think a trio of FCC Commissioners who proclaim to be champions of free speech would have had something to say about the plan given the scale of its stupidity. Yet they've refused to issue any comment whatsoever after more than a week. It's almost as if they're not actually being ideologically consistent, and are remaining mute simply out of blind partisan allegiance and support of Trump's clearly idiotic plan to blame social media for the fact that many people just can't stop being grifting assholes on the internet.

And while there's certainly plenty of very real problems with Facebook and Google (especially on the privacy front), it's been kind of overlooked in tech policy circles that a lot of the animosity in DC toward "big tech" right now originates with telecom giants eager to elbow in on Silicon Valley online ad revenues. It is, as they say, always about the money.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, administrative law, ajit pai, anti-conservative bias, bias, brendan carr, donald trump, executive order, fcc, free speech, michael o'rielly, policing speech, social media
Companies: facebook, google


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Aug 2019 @ 8:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Those multiple times Richard kept lying....

    Nice try at propping up the scam, but there are clear and obvious differences between the 5G plan cooked up by former NSC member AF Brig. Gen. Robert Spalding and an early draft of a presidential executive order.

    Such as? I have already pointed out to you in several posts just how similar the circumstances are. Should I quote them again for you?

    Some of these are matters of content: the spectrum plan had direct relevance to the FCC's jurisdiction over spectrum rights and broadband deployment, but the regulation of Internet social platform speech policies is not under FCC jurisdiction. I can show you where the Comms Act directs the FCC to manage spectrum and broadband deployment, but you can't show me where the Comms Act says the FCC is supposed to regulate Facebook.

    True, but the draft order is attempting to MAKE it the FCC's jurisdiction. Not really much different from the time the FCC had to explain to the president that they can't revoke someone's "news" license.

    Another difference is the maturity of the proposal. The 5G plan was presented to a broad group of government stakeholders (the NSC) in a slide deck that was intended to elicit discussion.

    Quite literally irrelevant. The only relevant part is that it is being drafted and circulated at all.

    Nobody knows how early the alleged White House order is,

    True, but also irrelevant.

    who (if anyone) it was presented do,

    It was quite obviously presented to several people, as the facts clearly state.

    and what its status is with respect to discussion and revision.

    One can only hope it was laughed off the table. Knowing our president, probably not. Regardless, the fact it is even being brought up is of concern. It means somebody doesn't really know or care too much about the First Amendment.

    So it's nothing more than a rumor

    You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means. To repeat myself, I've shown you multiple times how it's far more than just a rumor. No amount of repeating the same lie will change that.

    *And then there's the broader question of FCC's place in the federal government structure.

    The order seeks to violate that structure. I should think that should be something the FCC (or any agency) should be explicitly opposed to and is something they should state.

    Contrary to Techdirt's claims, the FCC doesn't report to the White House, it reports to Congress.

    TD has claimed no such thing. Honestly. How desperate do you have to be when you can just scroll up to see your lie exposed?

    The president nominates the commissioners and chooses one of them to be the chairman. He can't fire a commissioner, and all he can do with the chairmanship is transfer it to another commissioner.

    Thank you for explaining something we already knew.

    It's not the FCC's business to comment on possible executive orders and no reason to believe it sees them.

    As you just got done stating, the White House has no authority over the FCC, other than to appoint commissioners. As such, an executive order purporting to take authority over the FCC and direct them to do something would absolutely be something the FCC should be condemning.

    In fact, there are good legal reasons to believe they don't.

    Such as? Seems to me they comment on a good many other things. Why is this, an order that would cross legal and Constitutional lines and attempt to force the FCC to take orders direct from the White House be something they legally shouldn't comment on? I would imagine a simple statement of "if this draft order should be signed, it would constitute a violation of the Constitution, laws, and democracy that America was founded upon and lives by today".

    Finally, you've made a claim about "normal practice" but you've only offered one incident in support.

    It's trivially easy to do an internet search and find where the FCC, or its commissioners have either officially or unofficially commented on lots of other potential plans.

    In fact, the 5G case was the outlier and what's happening here is the norm.

    See above.

    You can't show me a single instance in which an FCC chairman has ever commented on an early draft of a possible White House executive order.

    How did that goal post get over there? You originally stated "unpublished plans". Should I quote it for you?

    The 5G plan was certainly not related to any executive order.

    That goal post certainly does get around.

    So your story is a farce.

    No, actually the story is easily fact checked and verified with an internet search. Your comments on the other hand.....

    The claim that the FCC is "oddly silent" is false.

    I suppose Jessica did tweet out that one word tweet with a link to the story. So I'll give you that on a technicality. But it doesn't change the fact that they have commented on other "unpublished plans" in the past.

    Techdirt is either clueless or deliberately lying.

    You misspelled your name there.

    Prove me wrong with evidence if you can;

    Done.

    Try again Richard.


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