FEC Commissioner Casts Eye on Internet

Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, spoke out this week against what appears to be a Federal Elections Commission (FEC) leader’s interest in increased government control over speech on the Internet.  He indicated that this is part of a troubling pattern.

“Last month Senate Democrats tried to amend the U.S. Constitution to increase government power over our first freedoms in the Bill of Rights, and just over a week ago FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai sounded the alarm about a government-funded project to identify ‘misinformation’ and ‘social pollution’ on Twitter,” stated Dr. Johnson.  “Is it any wonder that warning bells are ringing when we see dueling statements by top FEC Commissioners that expose a rift over the long-held belief that the government should keep its hands off Internet free expression?”

Last week, the top Democrat and Vice Chair of the Commission, Ann Ravel, announced her intention to spearhead a review of how the FEC treats Internet communication.  In a countering statement, FEC Chairman Lee Goodman (R) warned against “a shift in course that could threaten the continued development of the Internet’s virtual free marketplace of political ideas and democratic debate.”  Chairman Goodman has been wary of such a move for some time, and, in a FOX NEWS interview this week, he raised the “specter of a government review board culling the Internet daily.” 

In his reaction to this FEC dispute, Dr. Johnson noted that the United States lauds Internet freedom in the international realm.  Indeed, the U.S. State Department declares, “Internet freedom is a foreign policy priority…. Our goal is to ensure that any child, born anywhere in the world, has access to the global Internet as an open platform on which to innovate, learn, organize, and express herself free from undue interference or censorship.”

Dr. Johnson commented, “The Obama Administration must be careful in our own nation to avoid any action that could, purposefully or not, undermine free speech online.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: October 31, 2014

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