Democrats were in opposition – the Senate voted in favor of confirming the appointment of President Trump’s nominee for the FCC, Nathan Simington. Critics say Simington’s assurances could stifle the incoming bidon administration’s agenda, including steps to restore net neutrality rules.
Trump had previously nominated Simington as a senior adviser to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to replace Republican Commissioner Michael O’Reilly, who left the FCC in late 2020. Because Trump refused to nominate O’Reilly for another term. After questioning the legitimacy of the president’s order, the commissioner directed the FCC to look into how to interpret Section 230 of the Communications Act to regulate social media companies. That provision of law currently provides legal-liability for Internet platforms that allow them to moderate content posted by their users.
Critics have little experience in communications policy, and Trump was chosen by Trump after the section drafted a White House executive order under Section 230 to bar social media companies from “censoring or engaging in any political activity.” While the legitimacy of such a move is disputed, Trump and his allies are expected to give the agency controlling power over Facebook, Twitter and other Internet companies.
Simington’s appointment split the FCC 2-2 between the parties, with FCC chairman Ajit Pai saying he would leave the commission by January 20. After the President-elect Biden took office.
At the moment, if the Senate is controlled by Republicans in the new year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could block the FCC (preventing Democrats from gaining a majority) to steam the upcoming White House.
Pie has backed Trump’s campaign to reform Section 230 of the Department. Less than a month after the election, Pie began a rulemaking under Article 230 in compliance with Trump’s order – criticizing the FCC for what it said was beyond the scope of its authority. Trump, clearly outraged at the veracity of his posts about Twitter and Facebook, has continued to rant about Article 230, recently threatening to veto the defense spending bill if Congress fails to repeal Article 230.
Just before Tuesday’s vote, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Con) tweeted that Simington was “incompetent” and that “his confirmation would reduce our work on #net-neutrality and #digitaldivide.” The Senate must listen to the American people and #stopsington. “
Pie congratulated Simington in a statement, noting that the new FCC commission includes the rural population, “and his assurance that this important aspect will continue to be represented in the commission year after year as the FCC continues to work on the digital divide.”
Consumer-advocacy group Free Press denied Simington’s appointment to the FCC, saying in a statement that “the ability to examine his false posts about the results of the defeated presidential election has undermined efforts to undermine social-media platforms.”
“Simmington’s confirmation is a bipartisan Republican driver to dismantle the Biden FCC,” Matt Wood, VP of the policy’s free press action and general attorney, said in a statement. “The whole point is to keep the properly elected new administration and its appointees from working. It is not acceptable for Biden to consider what the FCC must do to promote broadband equity, increase media diversity and ensure that people can stay connected during this epidemic. “