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, 21 Aug 2019 @ 10:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: yadda yadda yadda

    Richard, Richard, Richard. You're beginning to sound dangerously close to a broken record. What's the saying? Oh yes:

    Second verse, same as the first! A little bit louder and a little bit worse!

    Almost nothing in your comment here is something you haven't stated before and it's been addressed and shown why it's wrong by at least 2 or 3 different people now. Why you continue to repeat it, knowing that we're just going to call you out on it again is beyond me but that's your choice I guess. Here goes.

    The post fails to make a credible case for its claim that commenting on a proposal to the NSC is equivalent to commenting on a press rumor

    Only in your mind, Richard, only in your mind. As has been explained (many times) the FCC has commented on unpublished proposals in the past. You may not like it, but you can't deny it.

    - with no concrete evidence - of an executive order that would be unlawful on its face.

    This is not the first time an order similar to this has been floated, it happened last September. This one has also been reported on by two independent news outlets, who have both spoken to officials who have seen the draft, and one outlet managed to get a summary of its contents. This is far from "no concrete evidence". Of note, the WH has not come out and denied these reports so we can safely assume that this order exists as reported.

    Contrary to Bode's claim, the NSC presentation did not originate at Rivada Networks, it came from an Air Force General Robert Spalding. While Rivada certainly liked it, their influence over the Air Force is nil. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and his minion Earl Comstock liked it as well, but they didn't write it either.

    Wow, that goal post has got some legs on it! If this was such a relevant distinction, why didn't you bring it up earlier? Regardless, Karl never said the NSC presentation was put together by Rivada, that's just you putting words in his mouth. Instead he states "That plan was largely just the lobbyist brain fart". For those who have trouble reading, that means he is implying that Rivada lobbied for such a plan, and got somebody (namely General Spalding) to put something similar together and present it.

    The Spalding proposal was reported in a credible way by the Actual Press; Axios published the slide deck.

    Yes. After it having been leaked to them. Just like the existence of this draft order was leaked. Something something broken record.

    There has been no disclosure of the alleged Facebook censorship plan, and one of the two journalists who've written about claims to have seen no more than a summary.

    Literally irrelevant. It's been corroborated by two independent news outlets and isn't the first time a plan like this has been drafted.

    It's premature for official government reaction to a possible plan

    You could have a point here, except you should have brought that up earlier. Plus, this also ignores the fact that A) official government reactions have been made on similar things previously, and B) no one is saying it has to be an "official" reaction.

    to make an unlawful order to solve a problem that may or may not exist.

    The problem doesn't exist and the order is unlawful.

    The alleged executive order simply isn't at the same level of newsworthiness as the Spalding proposal.

    You're right, it's not. It's coming from the office of the President discussing exactly how to violate the First Amendment for all Americans. It's WAY more newsworthy than the other proposal.

    It's obvious that Bode is trying to use this leak as a cudgel for him to continue Techdirt's unprincipled attacks on Chairman Pai.

    If Pai can stop lying and kowtowing to the telecom industry for two seconds, Karl would have no reason to call him out on his BS. You're the head of the BAC, tell him.

    No reasonable person expected Pai to take this piece of media bait.

    Which is exactly what the article implies, since it implies that Pai isn't commenting because this is would benefit telecom.

    While Techdirt bloggers generally do little more than summarize or react to news reported by journalists with actual sources close their stories,

    It's a blog. And TD bloggers do have their own sources, but, as they have stated many times, they are not interested in "getting first scoop", they prefer to do more in-depth analysis. That doesn't make them any less journalists than the ones that do "get the first scoop". Or are you going to say that you're blog is somehow any different? Kind of a self-own there, me boyo.

    this post is among the saddest to appear on the site.

    You are entitled to your opinion.

    I have to laugh about Techdirt's complaints about intellectual honesty.

    Says the guy who can't go a single comment without lying or repeating previously debunked claims.

    This is the blog that insists, contrary to academic evidence in 30 papers on the impact of piracy on the sales of music and video entertainment, that piracy does not harm sales of digital goods.

    TD has made no such assertion. This is easily provable by searching their past articles. Brazen of you to claim something that is so easily proven false though.

    Techdirt is the Flat Earth Society of tech policy.

    Flat Earth is easily proven wrong by observable facts. Observable facts have a history of proving TD right and are regularly quoted by them to back up their positions. Something you seem to struggle to understand, despite them being pointed out to you over and over and over and over and over....

    You can't curse your way out of the hole you've dug by publishing this ridiculous article.

    The only hole digging going on is you and your continued lies, goal post moving, and repeating of previously debunked assertions.

    Try again Richard.


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