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interfere with social media platforms, Trump informed O'Rielly that his nomination to stay at the FCC had been rescinded.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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  1. 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”?

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