FCC Won’t Fulfill Trump Order for ‘Regulations to Clarify’ Section 230
Trump’s Section 230 plans thwarted again (thank goodness). It looks like Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai never quite found the time to “propose regulations to clarify” the meaning of Section 230, as he was instructed to do by President Donald Trump in a summer executive order. Pai told Protocol and C-SPAN that with Trump’s presidency coming to an end, he would not be moving forward with new FCC rule-making about the internet law.
The full interview with Pai won’t be aired until this weekend. But Protocol has published some highlights, including this exchange:
On Oct. 15, you said that you intend to move forward with a rule-making for clarity on Section 230. What’s the status of that?
The status is that I do not intend to move forward with the notice of proposed rule-making at the FCC.
Pai—who has generally been respectful of free speech and free markets in his FCC tenure—has never shared some of his colleagues’ enthusiasm for gutting Section 230, and was (thankfully) never well-suited to do Trump’s bidding on this front. How it would have played out if Trump got another term is anyone’s guess, but in this reality, we’re in the clear.
Pai told Protocol that with the Trump administration on the way out, it simply didn’t make sense to carry forward with the rule-making. “Given the results of the election, there’s simply not sufficient time to complete the administrative steps necessary in order to resolve the rule-making,” he said. “Given that reality, I do not believe it’s appropriate to move forward.”
Asked to elaborate on his own thoughts about Section 230, Pai was a bit vague. But his answer illustrates what has always seemed to be the core of his objection to intervening: that whatever merits or not there were in Section 230 reform, it wasn’t the FCC’s place to weigh in.
If you could, what do you think should be done on Section 230?
There’s now a bipartisan consensus among elected officials that the law should be changed. Obviously the president believes it should be repealed, President-elect Biden has campaigned repeatedly on its repeal, but within Congress there appears to be a consensus also that it should be revised or reformed in some way. Obviously in terms of changing the law, that’s a decision for lawmakers to consider, but I do think there are certain bipartisan consensus areas forming regarding how it should be revised.
It’s a very complicated issue, one that I think Congress will have to study and deliberate on very seriously. I personally would think about it more carefully in terms of the immunity provision, for example, but those are the kinds of things that I think the next administration and Congress will think about very carefully.
Pai’s answer also illustrates an alarming truth about the war on Section 230: It’s not going away when Trump leaves office. President-elect Joe Biden and a huge swath of Democrats are also eager to abolish or restrict it, albeit for generally different reasons than their Republican counterparts.
Trump concedes on reinstated Twitter account as Cabinet members keep resigning. Facebook has indefinitely banned Trump’s account and Twitter temporarily suspended it. Upon returning to Twitter on Thursday night, Trump posted a video conceding the 2020 election. “A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th. My focus turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly, seamless transition of power,” he says.
Meanwhile, a number of Trump’s Cabinet members are making last-ditch attempts to disassociate with him. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Educa
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