Congress, With Nothing Important On Its Hands, Seeks To Rush Through Nomination Of Anti-230 FCC Commissioner

from the no-other-priorities? dept

You might think that Congress has more important issues on its hands, with a pandemic still going on, issues around disinformation and the election, massive fires still burning in parts of the US, a record number of hurricanes pounding the south... but it appears that Congress thinks the most pressing issue is gutting Section 230. As you'll recall, right after FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly made some generally straightforward statements about how the 1st Amendment wouldn't let the government interfere with social media platforms, Trump informed O'Rielly that his nomination to stay at the FCC had been rescinded.

It seems pretty clear that in the world of Trump, all that he wants out of his FCC is to act as his own private speech police. To that effect, he not only put in place the obviously unconstitutional executive order pushing NTIA to petition the FCC to "reinterpret" Section 230 of the Communications Act -- the law that enables social media to exist in its current form -- but has since put pressure on the FCC to move forward with that effort. While some had hoped that maybe Ajit Pai would find a backbone and his long-stated principles in his giant Reese's mug, he has proven he has neither, and moved forward with the process to make the FCC the internet speech police.

Of course, there remains a problem. O'Rielly is still there, and both the Democrats on the FCC have made it clear they disagree with this plan. When the announcement was made that O'Rielly's nomination had been pulled, I heard from multiple FCC experts who told me there was "no way" that a new Commissioner could be nominated, vetted, paraded before the Senate, and voted on before January 20th. However, it appears that a Senate that has decided it can rush through a candidate for an open Supreme Court seat rather than deal with the actual problems of the country can also do the exact same thing for an FCC Commissioner.

Last month, Trump nominated the guy who wrote the unconstitutional executive order, Nathan Simington, to the seat, and again I was told that his nomination was unlikely to be reviewed by the Senate before the new session began next year. Not so, apparently. As Politico reported last week, the Senate Commerce Committee has agreed to rush through his nomination in "near record time" with a hearing set for November 10th.

It's going to be fascinating to watch all those Senators who spent years claiming they were absolutely, 100% against the FCC regulating anything to do with the internet do total 180s and make sure that Simington is ready to become the speech police for the internet.

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Filed Under: fcc, free speech, michael o'rielly, nathan simington, nomination, section 230


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  • icon
    Thad (profile), 22 Oct 2020 @ 12:10pm

    You might think that Congress has more important issues on its hands, with a pandemic still going on, issues around disinformation and the election, massive fires still burning in parts of the US, a record number of hurricanes pounding the south... but it appears that Congress thinks the most pressing issue is gutting Section 230.

    Let's be fair -- this isn't even the most pressing issue on their "nominations to rush through" list.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 22 Oct 2020 @ 1:29pm

    Strange

    Could have sworn the republicans were throwing fits during the ACA about how it was being 'rushed through', and flat out refused to even consider an Obama nomination for the Supreme Court because it was an election year and they wanted to 'let the pubic decide', funny how those concerns get thrown right out the window and under a bus the second it comes to things they want when they have power...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2020 @ 1:57pm

    Is it just a hearing or are they going to vote on the nomination the same day? How likely is it they can rush him in before the election and what happens if the Republican lose the election and the Dems that control of the FCC?

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Shel10 (profile), 22 Oct 2020 @ 2:01pm

    The 1st amendment really would let the government and the courts to interfere. Facebook, and Twitter are working across state lines and around the world. Commerce department could also get in the middle. These companies should absolutely be slammed. They operate on systems which are regulated by FCC and in commerce regulated by Department of Commerce.

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

    • icon
      Nathan F (profile), 22 Oct 2020 @ 2:13pm

      Re:

      What part of "Congress shall make no law" is unclear?

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

      • icon
        Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 23 Oct 2020 @ 8:09am

        Re: Re:

        <sarc>
        The First Amendment only restricts Congress (Go back and read it). Presidents still have the power to censor, as does any judge who wakes up with a bad toothache.
        </sarc>

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Oct 2020 @ 2:21pm

      Assume I own a 30-person Mastodon instance. It’d likely be “working across state lines and around the world” and operating on “systems which are regulated by [the] FCC”. Ergo, my 30-person instance would, under your guidelines, absolutely qualify for the same regulations that you apparently believe the government should foist upon Facebook and Twitter.

      The First Amendment protects both the right to speak freely and the right of association from government interference. Facebook, Twitter, or my theoretical Mastodon instance all enjoy those protections. For what reason should the government have the right to violate the First Amendment and basically tell any of those services “host this speech or else”?

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

    • identicon
      k, 22 Oct 2020 @ 2:29pm

      Re:

      With any Supreme Court in the last half century prior to Trump, that reasoning would fail. With 3 Trump appointees, it might be upheld.

      That's troubling. given the bipartisan levels of corruption in Washington, the Democrats, while unlikely to choose judges so clearly out of step with precedent, would certainly use such a censorious authority if the Trump judges handed it to them.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2020 @ 4:20pm

        Re: Re: bad idea

        “It might be upheld”

        Unless the court wants to deal with breaking precedent and having others bringing that up then they would do well to abandon that.

        I don’t like the idea of lawfare. But I don’t have a problem with it either.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2020 @ 2:33pm

      Re:

      "The 1st amendment really would let the government and the courts to interfere. "
      You are wrong. (btw, the courts are a subset of the government)
      The entire Bill of Rights, including the first amendment, lists things the government is not allowed to do.

      " Facebook, and Twitter are working across state lines "
      Wouldn't that be the FTC?

      "and around the world"
      Wouldn't that be the State dept?

      " These companies should absolutely be slammed."
      Why? Just because you do not like them?

      " They operate on systems which are regulated by FCC "
      The FCC that the GOP neutered and is not allowed to do anything?

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 28 Oct 2020 @ 4:25am

      Re:

      "The 1st amendment really would let the government and the courts to interfere."

      Given your posting history around here I'm, just surprised you didn't try to make the case that 1A couldn't apply since Obama ate it as a side dish between devouring the children of right-thinking christians.

      Irrespective of which argument you try to use, however, you are wrong. 1A does indeed say, pretty bluntly, that government and the courts can not meddle with constitutionally protected speech.

      "Facebook, and Twitter are working across state lines and around the world."

      Now that argument is even dumber than your usual catch-all argument of "But Obama!". I didn't think it possible. So free speech is conditional to said speech not crossing borders in your world?

      "Commerce department could also get in the middle."

      So, according to THAT line of logic since journalists and newspapers make money transferring information, free speech doesn't exist for journalists?

      You know how we can tell you're a particularly low grade of alt-right troll, bro? I'll give you a hint - when your own arguments take each other out back and shoot themselves in a mexican standoff suicide pact it's a pretty clear tell.

      You know, the constitution isn't hard to read. As legal documents go most applications are very clearly set out. It's a highly legible laundry list of injunctions visavi what government is allowed to do and not which only really requires a constitutional scholar in a courtroom to arbitrate when a bunch of skilled lawyers try to circumvent a clause with a jenga tower of complicated legalese.

      I'd advise you to read it at least once, so you might avoid making yet another public spectacle of your willful ignorance.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2020 @ 2:12pm

    The country that created the Internet seems dead set on destroying it, because the president has hurt feelings.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2020 @ 4:20pm

      Re:

      The country that created the Internet seems dead set on destroying it, because the president has hurt feelings.

      More like because it allows the proles to organize and expose the official's lies. The corrupt politicians can't have that, as it's a threat to their power. So of course, they seek to destroy the thing that enables that threat.

      Make no mistake, guillotines will soon be falling in the USA. This kind of blatant corruption isn't something the proles will stand for long term. No matter how much the officials and their supporters think otherwise. Even Dear Leader in North Korea knows where his power comes from and takes steps to placate them. The US officials on the other hand, have decided on an alternate and fatal strategy.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2020 @ 2:28pm

    This would also fit nicely within the “Too Much Free Time” Category

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

  • identicon
    Glenn, 22 Oct 2020 @ 3:25pm

    More and more as I hear what comes out of Congress--what these Senators and Representatives are saying about 230, I have to ask: are these people in Congress now just this stupid or are they just this corrupt (or worse, both)?

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 23 Oct 2020 @ 10:26am

      Re:

      It's definitely both, as they're either stupid enough to think the anti-230 arguments are good ones, or corrupt enough to know they're not but stupid enough to think that this is a fight they actually want to win.

      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, 22 Oct 2020 @ 3:44pm

    Um... So Congress isn't doing shit here. This the Senate. Congress is both the House of Representative and the Senate. The House doesn't do hearing on nominee's because that's the Senate's job.

    Stop being a lazy dumbass, and blaming people who have nothing to do with the thing you are complaining about.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 23 Oct 2020 @ 5:31pm

    Ok.

    There is the old idea that laws for 1 is laws for all.
    And if these folks are going to PLAY that game, we can also.

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


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