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

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    Richard Bennett (profile), 22 Aug 2019 @ 1:17pm

    Re: Re:

    you state no one is going to talk about whether Silicon Valley dominant firms have a legitimate concern or if it's a smokescreen.

    Blatant lie. First, the challenge was not solely issued by the "dominant firms", and second, this is and has been discussed at length by not only sites like TechDirt and Ars Technica, but also other mainstream news outlets. You really have a problem with making lies that are easily disproven by a quick internet search and/or history.

    Point one is orthogonal and point two is asserted without evidence. Fail. is one of the DNS providers that offers encrypted DNS. If you enable it and set your computer to use it, your DNS requests will be encrypted and hidden from your ISP and anybody trying to snoop on your web traffic. It doesn't hide it COMPLETELY, but it's a far cry from doing "nothing for privacy".

    False. doesn't magically enable DNSSEC on domains that don't use it. does essentially nothing. BGP & DNS experts in the public interest sector have agreed with me on this point.

    But wait, you might be saying, your ISP still has to know the IP address of the site you are going to! Gotcha!

    Major destinations such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon are not hidden by Cloudflare and virtual hosting is only used by low-traffic sites. When you visit a site protected by a gatekeeper like Cloudflare, it's still possible to identify it from the external references it makes. You lose again.

    Moving on, your article about the "Save the Internet Act" states that net neutrality as talked about doesn't actually mean net neutrality and instead has something to do with telephones. Oh where to start, where to start? I mean, TD, Ars Technica and other news and tech outlets have LOUDLY proclaimed that's not what it's about.

    Title II was written for telephone services. I've done podcasts with the people who actually wrote the Title II revisions for the '96 Telecom Act, and I've read the Act. I'll stick with my evidence over your conspiracy nut fantasies.

    You also claim that it basically ignores what voters really want. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! How you can say that with a straight face is hilarious, considering every major poll has said the exact opposite.

    Open-ended polls on the Internet issues of highest concern to voters put NN way down the list, after privacy, fake news, trolling, ID theft, robo-calls and a host of other issues. The push polls that purport to show deep support for NN don't fool elected officials because they misstate what NN actually does and doesn't do.

    Then there's your article about the FOIA requests regarding the fake DDOS attacks on the FCC. You claim that it's all false, the emails don't prove anything, and that the whole thing was made up by a "Tom Wheeler operative" are outright lies and false.

    Pai's CIO told him it was a DDOS attack. That was wrong, but it is what he was told.

    You have cited some analyses that are over your head, but none of these are lies.

    Thanks for the laughs, Utter Coward.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.