FCC Chair Keeps Up Pressure on Tech Giants

Next week the FCC is likely to vote to roll back the agency’s 2015 assertion of heavy-handed power over the internet. As he did in a speech last week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has continued to ratchet up the pressure on Silicon Valley titans, who have been organizing against his effort to restore internet freedom.

Last week, Pai took particular aim at Twitter, saying, “The company has a viewpoint and uses that viewpoint to discriminate.” He added that other edge providers “routinely block or discriminate against content they don’t like.”

This week, in a Washington Times op-ed, Pai again highlighted offenses by Twitter, Google’s YouTube, and others. He especially zeroed in on comments by Apple CEO Tim Cook at an internet conference in China. He noted that Cook said, “We are proud to have worked alongside many of our partners in China to help build a community that will join a common future in cyberspace.”  In response, Pai declared, “That is code for a censored internet.”

The FCC Chair also emphasized his proposed Title II roll-back order’s transparency requirements for internet service providers. “Sunlight can be the best disinfectant,” he said. He highlighted, however, that Silicon Valley platforms don’t have to meet such requirements.  Pai stated:

Right now, consumers are largely left in the dark when it comes to how these companies determine what American consumers see in their newsfeeds or search results. For example, these platforms could be using algorithms that favor content with certain viewpoints, and their users would have no way of knowing that they were being manipulated in this way. Is this a problem that needs to be addressed, and if so, how? I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but I do think these are questions worth raising.

With the launch of Internet Freedom Watch this week, NRB is pushing for more scrutiny from the tech community and Congress on just such viewpoint censorship problems in hopes of finding freedom-honoring answers.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: December 8, 2017

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