Free Speech

California Congressman Ro Khanna Calls for "Fairness Doctrine for the Internet"

Also for the FCC to police supposed "blatant falsity."

|The Volokh Conspiracy |


From Today's Politico Morning Tech:

Silicon Valley congressman weighs in on Silicon Valley CEO: "The decisions of speech on the internet should not be left to billionaire tech leaders, no matter what their intentions," Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna said Monday, referring to Zuckerberg's decision to leave Trump's inflammatory social media posts alone. "We need a fairness doctrine for the internet in the 21st century. The FCC should make sure that aggrieved parties have the right to reply and that blatant falsity is not protected."

Not clear exactly what he's proposing, and how the Fairness Doctrine (which required broadcasters to carry responses to political views that they had broadcast) would interact with the quite different topic of bans on what the FCC views as "blatant falsity." But it's interesting to see politicians on the Left as well as the Right faulting the editorial choices of "billionaire tech leaders," and calling for more FCC regulation of social media platforms' behavior.

At least in theory, President Trump's attempt to rein in "billionaire tech leaders" through his Executive Order (with the FCC's help) would pressure platforms to restrict speech less, while Rep. Khanna's call for the FCC to suppress "blatant falsity" would involve the government restricting speech more. But I'm skeptical that either proposal would help free speech or public debate in practice: You can see more about the President's approach in my posts last week about the Order, see especially this one, as well as this post about the statutory background and this post about the political costs of a true viewpoint-neutrality rule (which would also apply to a true "fairness doctrine" rule). The final version of the order was slightly different from the one about which I was writing, but I think my analysis in those posts remains sound.