In a 70-30 vote that included 20 Republicans, the Senate has confirmed Merrick Garland to be the nation's next attorney general and he has pledged to use that post for strong antitrust enforcement.
Garland has long been a fixture on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, including as chief judge. That court has principle jurisdiction over challenges to FCC decisions. Garland was President Obama's pick for the Supreme Court vacancy opened up by the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia--Republicans refused to consider him and ran out the clock on the Administration. Instead, Donald Trump put conservative Neil Gorsuch on the court.
At his confirmation hearing, Garland pledged that he will be a strong enforcer of antitrust law as "the charter of American economic liberty" and expects to need more resources to do so.
Asked by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) if he thought the Justice Department had a role in examining the role of online misinformation in contributing to domestic division and terrorism and helping develop "reasonable solutions," Garland said he had no specific legislative solutions, but said he thought that the important part of the investigation of violent extremist groups is "following their activities online and getting an idea of the misinformation being put out."
Coons said he looked forward to working with Garland to find the correct balance between personal liberty and competitiveness and pushing back on digital authoritarianism.
Facebook Wednesday (March 10) asked a court to dismiss the government's case against it over the purchase of Instagram and WhatsApp. But Garland has pledged to take the issue of whether Big Tech was allowed to purchase nascent competitors to foreclose competition very seriously.
Before becoming a federal judge in 1997, Garland had a lengthy career at Justice, including as a special assistant to Attorney General Ben Civiletti, assistant U.S. attorney; a supervisor in the criminal division and a senior official in the deputy attorney general's office.
Motion Picture Association Chairman Charles Rivkin welcomed the nomination and what he hoped would be a good working relationship on the issue of intellectual property protection.
“Merrick Garland’s decades of legal experience, both in the Justice Department and as a respected federal judge, will serve him well as our nation’s next Attorney General," said Rivkin. "Following his bipartisan Senate confirmation today, the Motion Picture Association looks forward to working with him to safeguard America’s creative community, protect free speech and enforce intellectual property laws.
“Copyright is the foundation of our nation’s creative economy, supporting the livelihoods of millions of American creators. Because of strong copyright protections, the U.S. creative economy is unparalleled around the world. The MPA is confident Attorney General Garland appreciates the unique value of the nation’s film, television and streaming industry – including the 2.5 million American jobs it supports – and will work during this challenging time to ensure our community can rebuild stronger than ever before.”
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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.