Section 230

FCC Head Ajit Pai on Section 230 and Free Speech

"I am pessimistic about where this goes in the future," says the outgoing chairman, who is stepping down in January.


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President Donald Trump is willing to veto defense spending unless Congress repeals Section 230, the law that gives internet service providers, website operators, and social media platforms the right to moderate content however they see fit and broad legal liability from content generated by users. President-elect Joe Biden believes that Section 230, often called "the internet's First Amendment" and the "26 words that created the internet," should be "revoked immediately." If Section 230 is repealed or significantly revised, online life will be radically altered.

Enter Ajit Pai, who has served as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) since 2017, when Trump appointed him. During his time in office, he has championed deregulation (he repealed Obama-era net neutrality rules), auctioned off record amounts of spectrum, and pushed market-friendly policies for the rollout of 5G networks. Such actions earned him the Sixth Annual Savas Award for Privatization, an annual prize awarded by Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website.

In mid-October, after Trump exploded when Twitter and Facebook restricted access to a New York Post story critical of Joe Biden's son Hunter, Pai announced that the FCC would be working to "clarify" the meaning of Section 230 in the coming weeks. Although he has also announced he will be leaving the FCC on January 20, anything that he does could have a lasting impact.

In an exclusive Reason interview, Pai discusses what he thinks should happen regarding Section 230 and the future of free speech in America. "I am pessimistic about where this goes in the future," he tells Nick Gillespie. "We've grown up…with a culture of free speech and free expression. And I think we've often taken that for granted…Once that culture frays, who puts it back together? It's not going to be a politician. It's not going to be a regulator. It has to be the aggregated decisions of millions of Americans to say, no, we want pluralism again."

Written by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Paul Detrick.

Laptop: Photo 9514172 © Alsos |; Ajit Pai testifies; Credit: Alex Wong/picture alliance / Consolidated News Photos/Newscom, Abaca Press/Pool/Abaca/Sipa USA/Newscom, CNP/AdMedia/SIPA/Newscom, MIKE THEILER/UPI/Newscom, Chip Somodevilla/CNP/AdMedia/Newscom, Alex Wong/picture alliance / Consolidated News Photos/Newscom; 5G network box: Mikhail Pochuyev/TASS/Sipa USA/Newscom; Card holder: Photo 18091464 © Matthew Valentine |; Trump at podium: UPI/Newscom; Joe Biden: KEVIN DIETSCH/UPI/Newscom, D 47099856 © Palinchak |; FCC building; Credit: Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/Newscom; Joe Biden; Credit: Trump at podium; Credit: Alex Edelman/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Apps on phone; Credit: maxphotostwo137435; Facebook on phone; Credit: JakubPorzycki/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Twitter headquarters; Credit: John Nacion / SOPA Images/Sipa U/Newscom


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    2. Screw lawmakers. Most of them couldn’t explain the difference between a VPN and an EpiPen.

      Now, Pai, on the other hand, is technically competent, surprisingly libertarian, and extremely conversant with this issue. He’s been living it for years, and knows where the deadfalls are in every direction. He’s also not a never-Trumper, and presumably recognizes the bias problem being exhibited every day by Big Tech.

      From the newsreel, it sounds like he’s on the right track, though I am leery of his concentration on “transparent algorithms” in an industry where much of the censorship is not algorithmic, but the product of carefully selected left-wing boiler rooms full of people who know that their paychecks depend on censoring the sort of opinions that their bosses want censored, and not what they don’t.

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  1. What Internet? I thought this guy destroyed it a few years ago.

    1. He’s being replaced by Biden’s new preference, Dr. Ramit Inma Ashole.

  2. When both the Democrats and Republicans hate something, then it must be something good. Just saying.

    1. In this case that is a true statement.

    2. Amen!

      Defund the police? Nah! Der TrumpfenFuhrer will go ya one better! Defund national defense! Defunding national defense is better than (Oh My! The HORRORS!) continuing to allow Section 230 to enable free speech! We MUST have NEW Ministries of Truth and Ministries of NOT Hurting My Baby Feelings to REGULATE that wild and wooly internet! Taming (regulating) this wild beast is more important than national defense!

      So much for Trumpster-to-the-dumpster being a deregulator!

    3. Republicans hate it because tech companies censor conservative speech anyway. Democrats hate it because conservative still exist on the internet.

  3. The fix is already in the left controls the media education corporations and every means of communication.

    Imagine what will happen next.

  4. Thank goodness the evil Trump that put Ajit Pai, a couple of dangerous Supreme Court justices, untold dangerous federal justices in place, and a dangerous head of the Department of Education, is on his way out – to be replaced by a man of pleasant demeanor. Personality is more important than actual implemented policies. Biden has the kind of personality the Reason authors can cope with. Sure, freedoms may take a hit, but pleasant authoritarians are worth the price.

    1. Well said! Style over substance, like during the Obama years.

  5. Gonna miss that guy being the FCC Chairman. Hope wherever he lands he can still have some influence on policy and public sentiment. (bonus that he’s a Kansas boy)

    1. He made reddit trannies seethe so that Pajeet is ok in my book.

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  7. “Such actions earned him the Sixth Annual Savas Award for Privatization, an annual prize awarded by Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website.”

    funny no link to the article…oh there is no article?? That would have been a positive Trump story.

  8. The First Amendment has never amended to take away rights. Although the U.S. Supreme Court deserves much respect, on constitutional matters, their role is to interpret the “Letter & Spirit” of the First Amendment applied to modern times.

    When was the First Amendment, that bans government censorship, amended? It’s precisely why Hollywood created the ratings system (PG, R, Adult Audiences, Violence, Nudity, etc) decades ago to empower parents/adults (citizens) as censors NOT the government officials.

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