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Senate Confirms Lina Khan as Fifth FTC Commissioner

FTC commmissioner Lina Khan
FTC commissioner Lina Khan at her April Senate confirmation hearing. (Image credit: commerce.senate.gov)

The Senate has confirmed a fifth commissioner, Lina Khan, to the Federal Trade Commission, so that regulatory body has at least has a Democratic majority — some five months into the Biden administration — though it is still operating under an acting chair, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter.

The FTC is under pressure from Congress to exercise more muscular oversight of antitrust, particularly when it comes to Big Tech mergers, and was deeded more responsibility for internet-access regulation with the Federal Communications Commission‘s reclassification of internet service providers as a Title I information service. Then there are issues of intellectual property protection in an age where online video is increasingly the delivery system of choice. So, there is plenty to work on over at the FTC.

Khan has been an associate law professor at Columbia Law School, teaching and writing about antitrust law, infrastructure industries, and "the antimonopoly tradition," as the White House put it in nominating her. She is former counsel on the House Judiciary Committee Antitrust Subcommittee and was a legal advisor to Democratic FTC member Rohit Chopra.

”We applaud the Senate‘s bipartisan vote today to confirm Lina Khan to the Federal Trade Commission,” Charles Rivkin, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association, said. “The FTC stands at the forefront of protecting consumers and the creative community from the ills caused by content theft, including the malware so often spread by piracy sites and services. We look forward to working with commissioner Khan and the entire FTC to protect content creators and our audiences, educate consumers about the harms of stealing the work of America’s film and television creators, and hold accountable those actors in the online ecosystem who turn a blind eye to online crime.”

“USTelecom and our members congratulate Commissioner Khan on her bipartisan confirmation," said USTelecom President Jonathan Spalter. "We look forward to working with her to strengthen the digital economy and make progress on two key priorities. First, achieving a national privacy framework that respects and protects consumers across the entire internet ecosystem. Second, growing our existing partnership to crack down on robocall scammers who illegally pollute our communications networks.”

“I’m very pleased to congratulate Ms. Khan on her confirmation to the Federal Trade Commission,” said Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). “Her confirmation comes at a critical time for our nation as consumers have spent more time online than ever before during the pandemic, from connecting with loved ones, or staying on top of the news, to making a living by working remotely. As I said during Ms. Khan’s nomination hearing before the Commerce Committee: I believe in the promise of the internet and the information age, but I also believe that we need a policeman – or in this case – a policewoman – on the beat. That is the FTC’s core mission. We must protect consumers from the frauds and scams that have proliferated during the pandemic. We must protect their privacy and renew our focus on cybersecurity– both of which are essential to protecting our national security and infrastructure. And we have to do everything we can to help stabilize the local news ecosystem which has been severely impacted by unfair practices by the major internet advertising platforms."

“CTIA and the wireless industry congratulate Lina Khan on her successful Senate confirmation and subsequent appointment as Chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission. We look forward to working with the Chairwoman and wish her success in her new role," said CTIA President Meredith Attwell Baker. 

New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) celebrated the confirmation, but added that the FCC also needs a Democratic majority ASAP. Currently it is operating at a political 2-2 tie under acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, with no fifth commissioner yet nominated and no word as to whether Rosenworcel will get the permanent nod or if Biden will nominate a new chair to fill the fifth seat.

“We applaud today’s vote to confirm Lina Khan to the FTC,” said Joshua Stager, deputy director of broadband and competition policy at the institute. "She is a proven thought leader who has helped jolt antitrust enforcement out of stagnant 1970s thinking. After years of sluggish enforcement — particularly in digital markets — the FTC needs a fresh perspective. We look forward to working with Commissioner Khan.

“Another expert agency that needs a fresh perspective is the Federal Communications Commission — but we’re still waiting for a fifth commissioner and a permanent chair," Stager added. "In the meantime, the FCC remains deadlocked and unable to turn the page from [former chairman] Ajit Pai’s failed tenure. We can’t lose any more time. President [Joe] Biden needs to get the FCC to full capacity.”

OTI is one of a host of groups that have written the president asking him to fill the FCC vacancy.