E&C Leaders: FCC Trying to Boost Trump Election Fortunes

FCC's 2020 seal
(Image credit: FCC)

House Energy & Commerce Committee leaders are accusing FCC chairman Ajit Pai's of trying to boost the flagging fortunes of President Trump in advance of the November election.

House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Communications Subcommittee chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) were responding to Pai's announcement last week that he would be taking action on the President's effort to regulate social media via Section 230 of the Communications Act.

Sec. 230 provides social media and other Web sites with immunity from civil liability for their moderation of most of the third party content on their sites, though critics argue it has been stretched by the courts beyond its intended purpose.

Pai signaled he plans to follow President Trump's lead and "clarify" Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. He also said he has been assured by FCC lawyers that the FCC has the authority to do so. "I intend to move forward with a rulemaking to clarify its meaning," he said.

“Chairman Pai’s decision to start a Section 230 rulemaking is a blatant attempt to help a flailing President Trump. The timing and hurried nature of this decision makes clear it’s being done to influence social media companies’ behavior leading up to an election, and it is shocking to watch this supposedly independent regulatory agency jump at the opportunity to become a political appendage of President Trump’s campaign," Pallone and Doyle said in a statement.

“From the start, Republicans have used the Section 230 debate to threaten social media companies when they remove or flag disinformation and extremism on their platforms – all because of some baseless fantasy grievance that the internet is biased against conservative views. Their approach translates into a defense of online extremism and foreign countries’ disinformation campaigns, which is a baffling and dangerous position for lawmakers to take."

“Section 230 reform that creates a structure for healthier online ecosystems is needed and we are committed to seeing it done – but the FCC’s rush to push President Trump’s agenda weeks before Election Day should be seen for the reckless and politically-motivated stunt that it is.”

"Setting aside the now-standard overheated partisan rhetoric, what's most notable about the statement is that Chairmen Pallone and Doyle agree with Chairman Pai on the need for Section 230 reform."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.