FCC Commissioner: Restrictions On College Campuses And Twitter Show Free Speech Slipping Away

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Ajit Pai
Ajit Pai

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 into 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


The Washington Examiner

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

39 thoughts on “FCC Commissioner: Restrictions On College Campuses And Twitter Show Free Speech Slipping Away”

  1. isaac,
    The Qur’an, Talmud, Bible and Constitution are all animated in the same way. All of those referenced are inanimate objects, vehicles to be used and “how” they are used is a reflection of human nature, not the vehicle. Far too many don’t consider the guiding principles in the Declaration of Independence when they animate the constitution, so how the constitution is used is more often than not a reflection of our nature and not those founding principles of equality and unalienable rights.

  2. Those that believe that our sacred texts, the Constitution etc are ‘non-living’ would be better off in a monastery, or under the rule of a monarch. That is the only way something sacred stays untouched. The moment it is allowed to be the property of ‘The People’ it comes alive. Things change, slavery, women’s rights, children’s rights, and so on. It is one of the heights of hypocrisy to state that the sacred texts are not open to interpretation while offering forth an interpretation. What has got us here from the place we so revile, illustrated by the Islamic extremist world we used to inhabit is that very freedom to adjust ourselves as we evolve. I for one will never include the Constitution in the same context as the koran, bible, talmud, etc. These are dead books. The Constitution is alive, and well, and living in San Francisco.

  3. It’s fine to keep posting articles about how free speech is under constant assault by the liberal left. Meanwhile the real assault on free speech is never attended to in this blog.

    Darren? Professor Turley? Where is the article on the consolidation of media outlets in America?

    Six corporations now control 90% of the media in the US. There is NO liberal media, except maybe Amy Goodman and Democracy Now. There is only corporate media. Radio, TV, newspapers and magazines. All controlled by a very small handful of corporations. TV and radio news departments are all “profit centers” now, so they only talk about what sells. Investigative journalism is being shut down one case after another by corporate owned courts. The same courts that ruled that “broadcasters” like Faux News are not bound to be truthful in their reporting. Are you serious?

    You want to cover the REAL death of free speech? Start covering this and give up on this ridiculous red herring.

  4. The constitution + amendments are the non-living law of the land. Over the last 100 years the progressives have done everything they can to bring this inanimate object to life, to do its will in ways it won’t allow. Our constitution, with all the “aftermarkets” Dr. Frankenstein would envy is now somewhat “alive” and a threat to our rights and liberties. The irony is if the government actually respected the law then the people would not need to fear the freedom of or from religion. This ignorance is precisely why elections have consequences; the consequence being your minority rights will be trampled by the majority. You ignorant progressives built this monster, kill it or quit whining about it.

  5. Gun nuts tend to say they support the Constitution, but they apparently mean that it is fine to tamper with the first, fourteenth, and a few other amendments, so long as nobody touches the 2nd Amendment, which is actually the only one that needs to be adjusted to be compatible with today’s social conditions.

  6. The left has been attacking free speech on campus and elsewhere since the late 40s. This has ebbed and waned. Now they are in full force. Twitter is rating conservative comments lower so people do not see them. Drudge is a news aggregator. It is his selection that people complain about, but the WH is checking every day. The WH has a hit list for reporters and their organizations who he will deal with. All photographs are taken by his official photographer.

  7. Our sacred texts and documents will always be perverted to serve the claims of special interest groups. The question is when is a sacred right abused and America’s one great freedom is asking this question and understanding the issues. It is all about the issues. The issues both repeat themselves and remain the same. If a sacred text can be interpreted it becomes a guideline or a goal.

    The freedom to control the message through concentrated funding is not freedom of speech. The freedom to shout down others with bullying tactics and catch phrases is not freedom of speech. Unfortunately these are the freedoms those at the top enjoy.

  8. Free speech is under assault in a two front war. The right has little commando raids on free speech. But, the left has a blitzkreig Nazi assault on free speech, college campuses and a few commenters here corroborate that.

  9. Darren
    You wrote “We as a nation have deferred far too much authority to the hands of too few.”

    So true. The “few” already have authority over Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, banking rates, mortgages and the like. How many people are relying on the funds and services to stay alive?

    It’s not the intent of the programs descriptions that are in question. It’s that a large swath of the polices and a group of people are relying on the actions of a few non-elected persons.

  10. @Hildegard

    Why is Scalia mentioned here @ theocracywatch.org/biblical_law2.htm:

    Supreme Court Justice Scalia is the person who could have the greatest impact in helping the Religious Right establish its sovereignty. President Bush has talked about Scalia as the justice he admires the most.

    In an article published in First Things, a journal of religion and public life, in May, 2002, Scalia quotes St. Paul:

    “…Government…derives its moral authority from God. It is the minister of God with powers to “avenge” to “execute wrath” including even wrath by the sword (which is unmistakenly a reference to the death penalty).”

    Scalia appears hostile to Democracy: The “consensus” [that government is the minister of God]

    “has been upset, I think by the emergence of democracy…It is much more difficult to see the hand of God…behind the fools and rogues…we ourselves elect of our own free will.”

    He sees democracy as obscuring the divine authority:

    “the reaction of people of faith to this tendency of democracy to obscure divine authority…should [be] the resolution to combat it as effectively as possible.”

    Scalia views the United States Constitution as “dead” rather than as a living document that evolves along with society.

    “…the Constitution that I interpret is not living but dead…It means today not what current society (much less the Court) thinks it ought to mean, but what it meant when it was adopted.”

    This view of the US Constitution as “dead” could become the basis of a strategy to dismantle the separation of church and state. In a speech on January 12, 2003, at a Religious Freedom Day event, Scalia said that the principle was not imbedded in the constitution and therefore should be added democratically, which means through a constitutional amendment. An amendment to the Constitution on church-state separation would be impossible to achieve in the current political climate, so the argument is disingenuous.

    Scalia, speaking to a crowd of about 150 in Fredericksburg to mark a “Religious Freedom Day,” asserted that America’s Founding Fathers never meant to “exclude God from the public forums and from political life.”

    “Scalia sounds like a TV preacher, not a Supreme Court justice,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “His job is to uphold the Constitution, not promote religiosity.”

    So if he’s dead, that means the Christian Right is losing leaders. Even if Congress blocks Obama’s vote for a liberal judge that doesn’t jibe with the Religious Right, what makes you so sure that Cruz will become the official President if voters are aware of the Religious Right?

  11. In 1951 my father wrote his master thesis on the subject of the academic suppression during the Red scare. What else is new?

  12. If Pai is far Christian Right, is he a Dominionist by any chance? If so, then I would cautiously believe anything Pai would say. This can be a ruse.

    Free speech is enshrined, yes; however, certain speech such as “FIRE!” but having no actual fire around causing mass panic or mayhem would result in the inciting person arrested. You can go around, cussing people, or explaining away why you don’t like this or like this, but that does not require that the speech be contained. Speech that may incriminate the person, such as “I’m going to kill you” then resulting in the death of the targeted person, is NOT protected speech.

    For example, if someone spoke about homosexuality and it being an abomination, he has the right to speak clearly because it is free speech. I can choose to listen or walk away. Another example? What if someone screamed, “Dominionism for America! Theocracy for everyone!” It’s still free speech. I can walk away. Even if I’m offended, I’m not going to say, “I’m calling the Po-po on you!’

    Seriously… right now, I’m really concened about the Religious Right. They don’t sound like a very good bunch.

  13. L’Observer ” He is in a snit about what Twitter has done and uses it for some right wing scary propaganda of what the evil government is going to do.”

    My God you are so naive. I fear people like you are going to get us all killed.

    Scalia murdered? Sealed his fate 4 days before his death?

    Oh wait. Things like that only happen in the movies or TV shows like House of Cards where it makes perfect sense. Only the Mafia kills people to gain power…or wannabe Roman emperors a long, long time ago.

  14. Darren

    Could you clarify the following excerpt:

    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.

    Has the government made any moves to declare Any websites in need of regulation during election years. What is the definition of an election year. Has the government made any move to define which websites are in need of regulation. How would the government define equal terms.

    Oh for lords sake. The whole thing is crazy talk. He is in a snit about what Twitter has done and uses it for some right wing scary propaganda of what the evil government is going to do.

    Ask him about net neutrality for chrissakes. Ask him about prison phone calls. The guy is a corporatist and was corporation counsel for Verizon. Then ask yourself what Verizon wants from the net.

    He doesn’t give a damn about free speech.

  15. This guy is far right and was corporation council for Verizon. From Wiki:

    “Net neutrality

    Pai is opposed to the FCC’s current incarnation of net neutrality and voted against reclassifying internet service providers as Title II Common Carriers. He was very active publicly opposing the early-2015 vote of the FCC to enact “net neutrality” regulations.[15]

    Prison inmate telephone calling costs

    Pai voted to oppose imposing caps on the rates private companies charge for interstate inmate phone calls in 2013,[16] arguing instead for a simpler rate limit.[17] In 2015, Pai opposed rate caps on in-state inmate calls, claiming it would not solve the problem of inmates’ contraband cell phones.[1″

    The source was the Washington Examiner A conservative something or other. It’s not a paper like the Post or Boston Globe.

    I wouldn’t trust a thing this guy has to say. He hated net neutrality. And it’s ok with him if it costs some poor inmate $15 a minute to talk to his kids or his mom.

  16. Here’s some free speech for ya! (If it gets through the free speech censors that is.)

  17. To the barricades, my sisters and brothers! A hard rain’s gonna fall, sooner not later. Who will be our John Brown? “These men are all talk. What we need is action”. John Brown. There will be blood. Over and out.

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