FCC Chair Says Twitter And YouTube's Political Biases Are The Real Threat To An Open Internet

Would more Nazis and terrorists on social media make our internet more free?

Photo: AP

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, speaking today at a panel on the "future of internet freedom", asked and answered this question in staunchly libertarian terms, calling out YouTube, Facebook and Twitter's purported double standards against conservatives and identifying them as the "actual threat" to the open internet. Pai's critics say net neutrality repeal will lay the groundwork for ISPs to fragment and meter out the internet, but, speaking on a panel hosted by libertarian think tank R Street Institute, Pai said Silicon Valley - wicked, liberal Silicon Valley - already does this by promoting some viewpoints while suppressing others.

His first target: Twitter. Twitter openly supports net neutrality, which Pai argued is hypocritical because they differentiate between users based on their viewpoints.

"I love Twitter," said Pai. "But when it comes to a free and open internet, Twitter is part of the problem. The company has a viewpoint and it uses that viewpoint to discriminate."

Discriminate against whom? Just wait.

"To say the least, the company appears to have a double standard when it comes to suspending or de-verifying conservative users accounts as opposed to those of liberal users," said Pai. "This conduct is many things but it isn't fighting for an open internet."

Twitter's recent verification kerfuffle, of course, began early in November when the company verified Jason Kessler, the organiser of the Charlottesville neo-Nazi rally. Realising this is essentially an endorsement - verified users are rewarded with better security features and their tweets appear in more feeds - Twitter removed his verification and promised a more meritocratic system of verification, ultimately un-verifying Nazi-adjacent figures such as Richard Spencer and "Baked Alaska".

So what's Pai saying? That by de-verifying neo-Nazis (not banning them, as all these people can still use Twitter, obviously) Twitter is making the internet less open? What does Nazi ideology add to the internet? Why did Pai say "conservative" when this anecdote clearly refers to white supremacists?

Don't expect any ideological clarity. Pai's speech was a shallow, dishonest collage of conservative talking points, and it only became more ugly and disjointed as he continued.

"Edge providers," he said, "are a much bigger actual threat to an open internet than broadband providers, especially when it comes to discrimination on the basis of viewpoint."

Pai went on to list a few examples, none of which are related to net neutrality or even to each other: YouTube removing Dennis Prager's videos, Facebook's algorithmically determined news feed, Reddit's 2016 admission of editing user comments, and American companies "craving to foreign governments demands to block certain speech", presumably referring to foreign courts forcing Facebook and YouTube to block radicalism and recruitment.

Censorship is a complicated topic, but how will repealing net neutrality solve any of these problems? Does he have any alternatives? It's an empty bad faith argument. Pai wants to say de-verifying Twitter users is bad, but won't engage with what's being said or why. He wants to be outraged when content is removed, but not discuss what the content is. He wants to point out the hypocrisy of big internet companies, which is valid, but won't acknowledge the intractable moral puzzles created when content is created at an astronomical scale, as in YouTube and Facebook's case.

In short, Pai thinks regulation is bad full stop and support for net neutrality is just Silicon Valley trying to game the system.

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Comments

    This isn't meant to make sense. It's a distraction intended to make us discuss this non-sense instead of dismantling key points while also mobilising the anti-left, who have proven time and time again that they'll support psychos out of spite. It's nothing more than an extention of his lies.

    Funny to say political bias... from the political party member.
    How much money did the Internet Service Providers put into the Republican Party to get your seat on the FCC???

    So what?

    They are privately run companies and can run their companies how they want.

    I though Ajit Pai was against governments interferring with companies and that companies should be able to do buisness as they want. So him having a sook about Facebook, twitter and youtube is hypocrisy at its best.

      That's Ajit Pai's point.

      He's pointing out that Twitter, Facebook, YouTube et al can make their own decisions about the content they allow and promote and sponsor. They're private companies that can do what they want.

      He's saying it's hypocritical of THEM to lobby for government intervention in how ISP's (private companies) run their own businesses.

      Ajit Pai is correct in the limited context in which he's framing his argument.

      Where the whole de-regulation argument falls down is in the lack of choice consumers have in which ISP they choose. This isn't much of a problem in Australia, but in the US there are quite clear boundaries where choice of ISP is limited, often to 'one'. The ISP landscape over there is a bit of a multi-monopoly - monopolisation of specific areas. It makes it look as if there's competition as-a-whole, but it's a monopoly from the consumer viewpoint.

      Whilst Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are the behemoths of their particular speciality, there are alternatives to each, and therefore they're less of a monopoly (although this is arguable).

        Hell it's still a problem here. While it may look like we have a ton of choice that's not actually the reality since most of the small ones rely on a bigger provider anyway. Having a ton of choices that are essentially the same is no different to having no choice :(

        I really wish internet was treated as a govt service. Not the ISP side, but the raw provisioning, the infrastructure. Side note: I feel the same about power, water and other essential services.

    If this reporting is accurate, it seems odd that Pai is conflating censorship of content with neutral passage of electrons through hardware.

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