In his last two weeks, Ajit Pai lastly finds a spine and refuses to maneuver ahead with Trump’s ridiculous 230 assault
On Thursday, the day after his boss instigated a mob to storm the Capitol, outgoing FCC chairman Ajit Pai finally “distanced himself” from Trump, saying he would have Trump’s plan to reinterpret FCC Section 230, do not continue.
In an interview on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators,” Pai told Protocol and C-SPAN co-host Peter Slen that he did not intend to promote a regulation on Section 230, which was set out in Trump’s social media manager’s mandate. He said he would not “question” Facebook and Twitter’s decisions to ban Trump from publication. And he said the president bears some responsibility for the riots that struck Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Especially on 230 this was the exchange:
On October 15, you said that you intend to move forward with rule making in section 230 for clarity. What’s the status of it?
The status is that I do not intend to advance publicizing the proposed rulemaking with the FCC.
And why is that
Part of the reason is that, given the election results, there simply isn’t enough time to complete the administrative steps necessary to resolve the rulemaking. Given this reality, I do not think it appropriate to move forward.
If you could, what do you think should be done in section 230?
There is 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 Obviously the President believes it should be repealed, President-elect Biden has repeatedly campaigned for it to be repealed, but there also seems to be a consensus within Congress that it should be revised or reformed in some way. With regard to the amendment of the law, of course, this is a decision that the legislature must take into account, but I think certain bipartisan areas of consensus are emerging on the revision.
It is a very complicated subject that I think Congress needs to think and think about very seriously. Personally, I would think more carefully about the immunity rule, for example, but these are the things that I think the next government and Congress will think very carefully about.
He’s trying to escape this with his reputation intact and no one should let him get away with it. He could have spoken earlier. He could actually have defended the first amendment and the fact that internet websites have the right to moderate at their own discretion. That’s what his ideologically minded colleague at the FCC, Mike O’Rielly, did when he pointed out that social media moderation is not an issue for the government. Pai sat there and said nothing and watched as his colleague, who had supported every other nonsense position that Pai has held for years, was fired for it.
Then Pai could have done the right thing and refused to even bother picking up the CDA 230 issue after the NTIA sent a petition on Trump’s orders. He coughed and asked for comments, which was wasting everyone’s time. Then he could have picked up those comments – in which every single key comment stated that he had no authority and shouldn’t get involved at all – and decided not to move on. But he went ahead spinelessly, offering a ridiculous legal justification that was diametrically opposed to everything he’d said about the net neutrality issue.
Only now – two weeks before the Trump presidency ends, after more and more people (including Republicans) realized that Trump may be a destructive mess that contributed to a turmoil in the Capitol – does Pai pretend to find a backbone and Express the refusal to move forward on this matter. And he does it in the weakest way – he says he’s running out of time. It’s a spineless move by someone who has spent almost all of their years in public office to publicly pat themselves on the back for standing by their “keep government out of business” policy.
Obviously, Pai has made some political calculation here, and he hopes to slip away from this mess and smell the same day some other Republicans hoping to revive their reputations do too. But it is not a matter of principle to wait until the politically favorable point is reached to do what you should have done months ago. The truth is simple: Pai is not the principled defender of “free markets” and “light touch regulation” as it has positioned itself over the years. He’s just another political hacker who has taken the easy route.
In his final two weeks, Ajit Pai finally finds a backbone and refuses to move forward with Trump’s ridiculous 230 attack
More Techdirt Legal Stories:
PSA: If someone doesn’t take your friend request, don’t threaten to kill them and break their front door
Copyright Troll Richard Liebowitz Helps Protect Free Speech and Fair Use by Losing Another Case
AT&T is restoring its bullshit broadband caps because apparently the COVID crisis is over