Feb 20, 2106 By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
In an interview with the Washington Examiner, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai expressed his worry of the waning of free speech rights in American. The suppression of dissenting speech on college campuses and Twitter he believes are prime examples.
“I think th[is] poses a special danger to a country that cherishes First Amendment speech, freedom of expression, even freedom of association. I think it’s dangerous, frankly, that we don’t see more often people espousing the First Amendment view that we should have a robust marketplace of ideas where everybody should be willing and able to participate.
Largely what we’re seeing, especially on college campuses, is that if my view is in the majority and I don’t agree with your view, then I have the right to shout you down, disrupt your events, or otherwise suppress your ability to get your voice heard.”
The text of the First Amendment is enshrined in our Constitution, but there are certain cultural values that undergird the amendment that are critical for its protections to have actual meaning.”
Mr. Pai unfortunately has perhaps a minority view on the federal communications commission which recently ruled that the First Amendment does not apply to Internet service providers, such as Twitter which recently announced that it would create a “trust and safety zone” to regulate and police comments left by its members.
He also lamented that if the public continues to possess a cavalier embracement of the importance of respecting free speech as a whole, that the end result would be government and politicians will take advantage of the situation and enact speech controls in any manner they see fit. Mr. Pai believes, and I share his belief, that the government during election years could declare websites such as Drudge Report and MSNBC as providing a disproportionate effect on the coverage of a particular idea and therefore must be regulated to provide content that is more in what the government believes to be on equal terms with what should be provided to other political campaigns.
What I find it particularly troubling is that Mr. Pai’s concerns represent those of an individual who is becoming a reflection of the past. In fact the chairwoman of the FCC, Ann Ravel, last year engaged in a campaign of regulatory propagation that included stricter regulation of campaign spending and speech curtailment. She worryingly went so far as to call for the removal of some of the commission’s members.
In addition, she targeted individual content providers such as Drudge Report, Google, and Facebook. Many of her efforts have been forestalled by close decisions of the commission, but these votes were narrow and in fact often times it was one individual who stopped some of her pledges. Frustrated by these votes, she slammed the commission is being “dysfunctional” in comments voiced to the New York Times.
While I certainly agree that there is too much money involved in political campaigns, and for that matter politics in general, it seems that the need to regulate what is advertised and what is presented by outlets to the public is objected to by those seeking office, and it becomes the case where regulating campaign contributions is the excuse often utilized.
We as a nation have deferred far too much authority to the hands of too few. And, to me it is unacceptable that the freedoms that define us are held and granted upon the whim of what’s becoming a free speech oligopoly.
By Darren Smith