The FCC Knows Trump's Social Media Order Is A Joke, But Fecklessly Pretends Otherwise

from the do-not-upset-dear-leader dept

We've mentioned at great length how Trump's executive order to more heavily "regulate" social media is an unworkable joke. It attempts to tackle a problem that doesn't exist ("Conservative censorship") by attacking a law that actually protects free speech (Section 230), all to be enforced by agencies (like the FCC) that don't actually have the authority to do anything of the sort. You can't overrule the law by executive order or regulatory fiat, nor can you ignore the Constitution. The EO is a dumb joke by folks who don't understand how any of this works, and it should be treated as such.

Instead, most press coverage of the move is still somehow framed as "very serious adult policy," despite being little more than a glorified brain fart.

The FCC also knows the order is unworkable garbage that flies directly in the face of years of espoused (government hands off) ideology by Ajit Pai, Brendan Carr and friends. And yet, terrified of upsetting dear leader, Pai issued a totally feckless statement on Monday stating the EO would be pushed through the rule-making process, pretending as if this was all just ordinary, sensible tech policy:

This is, you'll recall, the same guy who spent the last eight years insisting that fairly modest consumer protections governing telecom monopolies (net neutrality, privacy) was a vile example of "government run amok." It's the same guy whose entire policy platform revolves around the idea that hands off, limited government oversight universally results in near-mystical outcomes. The order to have the FCC regulate social media giants runs in stark contrast to nearly everything Pai professes to believe, including his adoration of free speech (since eliminating 230 would all but guarantee less of it). And yet he's completely unwilling to make so much as a cautiously critical peep.

Even if Pai's worried that he'll just be replaced by Carr (whose somehow even worse about intellectual consistency) for showing the slightest shred of backbone, there are ways that Pai could express his disdain for this order without upsetting King Donald (perhaps just use big words). But Pai does nothing of the sort. He's completely selling out everything he believes in to make Donald happy. Not only that, he attempts to frame the idea that we should shut down an idiotic assault on free speech before wasting everybody's time as itself an attack on free speech.

As a result we're wasting agency time and taxpayer resources (during a pandemic no less when 42 million Americans lack broadband, something actually under FCC authority) to pursue an inherently dumb and dangerous idea.

Now we move on to the next step in pretending this is real policy: opening the FCC comment system to 45 day of public comments. Except as we saw with the net neutrality repeal (in which the telecom industry used fake and dead people to support terrible and unpopular policy), the FCC doesn't actually do much to prevent fraud or abuse. So anybody eager to see Silicon Valley saddled with additional regulatory oversight (like its ad competitors in telecom or K Street political operatives) are going to stuff the ballot box with nonsense, taking us further down the rabbit hole of pretending Trump's EO is serious adult policy making.

In short we've got a garbage, unworkable proposal being shuffled through elaborate NTIA and FCC policy making system at taxpayer expense during a crisis, all "supported" by people too afraid of Donald Trump to show even the faintest hint of consistency or backbone. In other words, just another ordinary Monday in Washington.

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Filed Under: ajit pai, commerce department, donald trump, executive order, fcc, free speech, ntia, public comments, section 230


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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 3 Aug 2020 @ 12:06pm

    This should be a non-starter, but was easily predictable

    "Today, the @FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau will invite public input on the petition for rulemaking recently filed by @CommerceGov regarding #Section230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.Today, the @FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau will invite public input on the petition for rulemaking recently filed by @CommerceGov regarding #Section230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996."

    I can't wait. 90% of the public comments will have to be redacted due to (ahem) unseemly language. The other 10% will be in favor of the FCC whipping out their regulatory baton, though they all originated at the same email address.

    Then, so soon as the FCC begins whatever agenda they imagine is appropriate, they will be sued, and it will take a decade or so for it to get to the Supreme Court who will finally, reluctantly, impose 1st Amendment controls over the FCC's antics.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      kallethen, 3 Aug 2020 @ 12:15pm

      Re: This should be a non-starter, but was easily predictable

      This is another time where that often requested "Sad but true" button would be handy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2020 @ 2:56pm

      Re: This should be a non-starter, but was easily predictable

      legally they cant whip out their regulatory baton because it would be illegal to do that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 3 Aug 2020 @ 4:19pm

        Re: Re: This should be a non-starter, but was easily predictable

        Then why bother with the request for input? The FCC is legally an independent department so it does not need to follow any instructions from the White House, but here they are.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2020 @ 9:27pm

      Re: This should be a non-starter, but was easily predictable

      I can't wait. 90% of the public comments will have to be redacted due to (ahem) unseemly language. The other 10% will be in favor of the FCC whipping out their regulatory baton, though they all originated at the same email address.

      Or they'll be one hundred word-for-word identical copies of the same letter, just sent with different postal return addresses in the header. Basically, the same sort of nonsense we're used to when the FCC gets on its high horse about something like "Parents Television Council" vs. FOX "Married By America" - a long list of orchestrated, identical complaints directed (in many cases) against affiliate stations in locations where the supposed complainants can't actually receive them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stan (profile), 3 Aug 2020 @ 12:45pm

    King Donald

    "... upsetting King Donald"

    King? I see him more as an emperor, goading his followers into ever bigger displays of frenzy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 3 Aug 2020 @ 1:14pm

    "Glorified" ...like cow patties?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 3 Aug 2020 @ 1:28pm

    All laws for all people.

    Why then make something specific to 1 thing.
    If we enforce this, can we take it to be for everything??
    Lets try it against the corps..(not the internet ones)
    Lets try it against the gov..

    Even with the Constitution, backing free speech. They wish to limit it?
    Wasnt there a comment by 'He who knows less' about Libel laws? Where he thinks he should be right and everyone else WRONG??

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2020 @ 3:08pm

    AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile all pay Ajit Pai's (illegal bribery) salary....

    He won't go against his true masters, not when it would cost him many millions in bribery dollars and the cushy job when he leaves the FCC.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 3 Aug 2020 @ 4:20pm

      Re:

      No need to risk bribing someone they already own, a simple 'offhand comment' about how they are always looking for 'people experienced in the industry' and he has a luxurious do-nothing 'job' waiting for him whenever he cares to retires and that would likely do the trick.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2020 @ 3:10pm

    TechDIRT Knows Trump's Social Media Order Isn't A Joke, But Fecklessly Pretends Otherwise

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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