New FCC Nominee Has Already Been Helping Trump Try To Censor Social Media
Trump nominates Nathan Simington to Federal Communications Commission (FCC). When both presidential contenders—incumbent President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden—want to repeal Section 230 of federal communications law, it’s perhaps the best indicator that doing so is a bad idea. As First Amendment lawyer and law professor Eric Goldman put it earlier this summer: “Turns out that censorship is a bipartisan objective.”
The popularity among politicians for destroying this free speech-protective law proves yet again how appealing censorship is to both Republicans and Democrats. It seems like every week in 2020, we get a new and devastating reminder of this unfortunate fact. Today, it comes in the form of Trump’s new nominee for Federal Communications Commission commissioner: Nathan Simington.
The first sign that this is no good for social media and the internet is that Simington is a veteran telecom lawyer. But he’s not just any telecom lawyer. “Simington, a senior adviser at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), played a significant role in drafting a petition required under the Trump administration’s social media executive order issued over the summer,” reports The Verge. That NTIA petition was central to Trump’s gambit to get the FCC to reinterpret Section 230. (Read more about Trump’s overreaching and yet also relatively toothless order here.)
“Simington’s nomination marks a significant break in the Trump administration’s former FCC nominations,” notes The Verge‘s Makena Kelly. “Previously, the administration has nominated Republican commissioners in favor of light-touch telecommunications and technology policy.” And “if Simington’s nomination is approved in the Senate, the FCC would have two Republican commissioners likely in favor of voting to approve the administration’s social media order,” Kelly points out.
Simington would take the place of FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, who describes himself as “extremely dedicated to First Amendment” and—unlike some of his colleagues—has declined to be a total Trump bootlicker. Trump had nominated O’Rielly for a third term as an FCC commissioner until O’Rielly gave a speech critical of Trump administration tech and speech policy in July. The White House promptly announced that it was pulling O’Rielly’s nomination.
“In other words, the White House is being a petty asshole, again, and firing anyone for not being in lockstep with the President’s ridiculous unconstitutional whims,” commented Mike Masnick at Techdirt.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D–Ore.), one of the co-authors of Section 230, told The Verge that Trump’s order is wrong about how Section 230 works (and so are politicians like Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas). “What Chris Cox and I tried to do in Section 230, I think it’s still valid today, is we wanted to empower free speech and moderation. These other ideas have one thing in common. They would restrict free speech in order to force moderation,” said Wyden in August. Asked then to speculate on
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