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The tech supremacy: Silicon Valley can no longer conceal its power

By Niall FergusonThe Spectator

‘To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,’ George Orwell famously observed. He was talking not about everyday life but about politics, where it is ‘quite easy for the part to be greater than the whole or for two objects to be in the same place simultaneously’. The examples he gave in his 1946 essay included the paradox that ‘for years before the war, nearly all enlightened people were in favour of standing up to Germany: the majority of them were also against having enough armaments to make such a stand effective’.

Last week provided a near-perfect analogy. For years before the 2020 election, nearly all American conservatives were in favour of standing up to big tech: the majority of them were also against changing the laws and regulations enough to make such a stand effective. The difference is that, unlike the German threat, which was geographically remote, the threat from Silicon Valley was literally in front of our noses, day and night: on our mobile phones, our tablets and our laptops. 

Writing in this magazine more than three years ago, I warned of a coming collision between Donald Trump and Silicon Valley. ‘Social media helped Donald Trump take the White House,’ I wrote. ‘Silicon Valley won’t let it happen again.’ The conclusion of my book The Square and the Tower was that the new online network platforms represented a new kind of power that posed a fundamental challenge to the traditional hierarchical power of the state.

By the network platforms, I mean Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Google and Apple, or FATGA for short — companies that have established a dominance over the public sphere not seen since the heyday of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church. FATGA had humble enough origins in garages and dorm rooms. As recently as 2008, not one of them could be found among the world’s largest companies by market capitalisation. Today, they occupy first, third, fourth and fifth places in the market cap league table, just above their Chinese counterparts, Tencent and Alibaba. 

What happened was that the network platforms turned the originally decentralised worldwide web into an oligarchically organised and hierarchical public sphere from which they made money and to which they controlled access. That the original, superficially libertarian inclinations of these companies’ founders would rapidly crumble under political pressure from the left was also perfectly obvious, if one bothered to look a little beyond one’s proboscis. 

Following the violent far-right rally at Charlottesville in August 2017, Matthew Prince, chief executive of the internet service provider Cloudflare, described how he had responded: ‘Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet.’ On the basis that ‘the people behind the [white supremacist magazine] Daily Stormer are assholes’, he denied their website access to the internet. ‘No one should have that power,’ he admitted. ‘We need to have a discussion around this with clear rules and clear frameworks. My whims and those of Jeff [Bezos] and Larry [Page] and … Mark [Zuckerberg] shouldn’t be what determines what should be online.’

But that discussion had barely begun in 2017. Indeed, many Republicans at that time still believed the notion that FATGA were champions of the free market that required only the lightest regulation. They know better now. After last year’s election Twitter attached health warnings to Trump’s tweets when he claimed that he had in fact beaten Joe Biden. Then, in the wake of the storming of the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters, Twitter and Facebook began shutting down multiple accounts — including that of the President himself, now ‘permanently suspended’ from tweeting. When Trump loyalists declared their intention to move their conversations from Twitter to rival Parler — in effect, Twitter with minimal content moderation — Google and Apple deleted Parler from their app stores. Then Amazon kicked Parler off its ‘cloud’ service, effectively deleting it from the internet altogether. It was a stunning demonstration of power.

It is only a slight overstatement to say that, while the mob’s coup against Congress ignominiously failed, big tech’s coup against Trump triumphantly succeeded. It is not merely that Trump has been abruptly denied access to the channels he has used throughout his presidency to communicate with voters. It is the fact that he is being excluded from a domain the courts have for some time recognised as a public forum. 

Various lawsuits over the years have conferred on big tech an unusual status: a public good, held in private hands. In 2018 the Southern District of New York ruled that the right to reply to Trump’s tweets is protected ‘under the “public forum” doctrines set forth by the Supreme Court’. So it was wrong for the President to ‘block’ people — i.e. stop them reading his tweets — because they were critical of him. Censoring Twitter users ‘because of their expressed political views’ represents ‘viewpoint discrimination [that] violates the First Amendment’.

In Packingham vs North Carolina (2017), Justice Anthony Kennedy likened internet platforms to ‘the modern public square’, arguing that it was therefore unconstitutional to prevent sex offenders from accessing, and expressing opinions on, social network platforms. ‘While in the past there may have been difficulty in identifying the most important places (in a spatial sense) for the exchange of views,’ Justice Kennedy wrote, ‘today the answer is clear. It is cyberspace —the “vast democratic forums of the internet” in general … and social media in particular.’

In other words, as President of the United States, Trump could not block Twitter users from seeing his tweets, but Twitter is apparently within its rights to delete the President’s account altogether. Sex offenders have a right of access to online social networks; but the President does not. These companies have a dominance not seen since the heyday of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church

This is not to condone Trump’s increasingly deranged attempts to overturn November’s election result. Before last week’s riots, he egged on the mob; he later said he ‘loved’ them, despite what they had done. Nor is there any denying that a number of Trump’s most fervent supporters pose a threat of further violence. Considering the bombs and firearms some of them brought to Washington, the marvel is how few people lost their lives during the occupation of the Capitol.

Yet the correct response to that threat is not to delegate to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and their peers the power to remove from the public square anyone they deem to be sympathetic to insurrection or otherwise suspect. The correct response is for the FBI and the relevant police departments to pursue any would-be Trumpist terrorists, just as they have quite successfully pursued would-be Islamist terrorists over the past two decades.

The key to understanding what has happened lies in an obscure piece of legislation, almost a quarter of a century old, enacted after a New York court held online service provider Prodigy liable for a user’s defamatory posts. Congress then stepped in with the 1996 Telecommunications Act and in particular Section 230, which was written to encourage nascent firms to protect users and prevent illegal activity without incurring massive content management costs. It states: 1. No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.2. No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of … any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable.

In essence, Section 230 gives websites immunity from liability for what their users post if it is in any way harmful, but also entitles websites to take down with equal impunity any content that they don’t like the look of. The surely unintended result of this legislation, drafted for a fledgling internet, is that some of the biggest companies in the world enjoy a protection reminiscent of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Try to hold them responsible as publishers, and they will say they are platforms. Demand access to their platforms and they will insist that they are publishers.

This might have been a tolerable state of affairs if America’s network platforms had been subject to something like the old Fairness Doctrine, which required the big three terrestrial TV networks to give airtime to opposing views. But that was something the Republican party killed off in the 1980s, seeing the potential of allowing more slanted coverage on cable news. What goes around comes around. The network platforms long ago abandoned any pretence of being neutral. Even before Charlottesville, their senior executives and many of their employees had made it clear that they were appalled by Trump’s election victory (especially as both Facebook and Twitter had facilitated it). Increasingly, they interpreted the words ‘otherwise objectionable’ in Section 230 to mean ‘objectionable to liberals’.

Throughout the summer of last year, numerous supporters of Black Lives Matter used social media, as well as mainstream liberal media, to express their support for protests that in many places escalated into violence and destruction considerably worse than occurred in the Capitol last week. One looked in vain for health warnings, much less account suspensions, though Facebook says it has removed accounts that promote violence. 

Compare, for example, the language Trump used in his 6 January speech and the language Kamala Harris used in support of BLM on Stephen Colbert’s show on 18 June. Neither explicitly condoned violence. Trump exhorted the crowd to march to the Capitol, but he told them to ‘peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard’. Harris condemned ‘looting and… acts of violence’, but said of the BLM protestors: ‘They’re not going to stop. They’re not. This is a movement. I’m telling you. They’re not going to stop, and everyone, beware. Because they’re not going to stop. They’re not going to stop before election day in November, and they are not going to stop after election day. And everyone should take note of that on both levels.’ What exactly was the significance of that ‘beware’? 

Earlier, on 1 June, Harris had used Twitter to solicit donations to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which posted bail for people charged with rioting in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd. It would be easy to cite other examples. ‘Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence,’ Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times told CBS in early June, at a time when multiple cities were being swept by arson and vandalism. Her Twitter account is still going strong.

The double standard was equally apparent when the New York Post broke the story of Biden’s son Hunter’s dubious business dealings in China. Both Twitter and Facebook immediately prevented users from posting links to the article — something they had never done with stories damaging to Trump. 

You don’t need to be a Trump supporter to find all this alarming. Conservatives of many different stripes — and indeed some bemused liberals — have experienced the new censorship for themselves, especially as the Covid-19 pandemic has emboldened tech companies to police content more overtly. In the UK, TalkRadio briefly vanished from YouTube for airing anti–lockdown views that violated the company’s ‘community guidelines’. A recording of Lionel Shriver reading one of her Spectator columns on the pandemic was taken down for similar reasons. Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson, two Oxford academics, fell foul of Facebook’s censors when they wrote for this magazine about a briefly controversial paper on the efficacy of masks in Denmark.

You might think that FATGA have finally gone too far with their fatwa against a sitting president of the United States. You might think a red line really has been crossed when both Alexei Navalny and Angela Merkel express disquiet at big tech’s overreach. But no. To an extent that is remarkable, American liberals have mostly welcomed (and in some cases encouraged) this surge of censorship — with the honourable exception of the American Civil Liberties Union. 

True, during last year’s campaign the Biden team occasionally talked tough, especially about Facebook. However, it is increasingly clear that the most big tech has to fear from the Biden-Harris administration is protracted antitrust actions focused on their alleged undermining of competition which, if history is any guide, will likely end with whimpers rather than bangs. Either way, the issue of censorship will not be addressed by antitrust lawsuits. 

It is tempting to complain that Democrats are hypocrites — that they would be screaming blue murder if the boot were on the other foot and it was Kamala Harris whose Twitter account had been cancelled. But if that were the case, how many Republicans would now be complaining? Not many. No, the correct conclusion to be drawn is that the Republicans had their chance to address the problem of over-mighty big tech and completely flunked it. 

Only too late did they realise that Section 230 was Silicon Valley’s Achilles heel. Only too late did they begin drafting legislation to repeal or modify it. Only too late did Section 230 start to feature in Trump’s speeches. Even now it seems to me that very few Republicans really understand that, by itself, repealing 230 would not have sufficed. Without some kind of First Amendment for the internet, repeal would probably just have restricted free speech further.

As Orwell rightly observed, ‘we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality.’ 

Those words sum up quite a lot that has gone on inside the Republican party over the past four years. There it was, right in front of their noses: Trump would lead the party to defeat. And he would behave in the most discreditable way when beaten. Those things were predictable. But what was also foreseeable was that FATGA — the ‘new governors’, as a 2018 Harvard Law Review article called them — would be the true victors of the 2020 election.


How the new feudalism will happen

Will the unholy alliance prevail ?

By Larry Fedewa Ph.D.DrLarryOnline.com

The events of last week showed us how the new oligarchy will work. The tip-off was the censorship of the New York Post story about the corruption of the Biden family.

As this column presented the findings of the U.S. Senate Committees on the Judiciary and Homeland Security concerning the activities of Hunter Biden and his successful sale of his Vice President father’s influence on behalf of foreign countries for billions of dollars. The Post story presented in convincing detail a collaboration of the Senate Report.

The Tweeter note of this story was taken down by the Alphabet Corporation, which owns Google, and quickly followed by Facebook – both owned by billionaires who have signed on to the Biden campaign.

Social media, in the form of these two companies plus Microsoft, LinkedIn, and several others, have become the major source of new for much of the country and the world. For example, You Tube (also owned by Alphabet) is the primary source of news for 26% of the American population. That is more than any broadcast programming in America.

In order to understand this situation, we will approach its various aspects separately as 1) the basis of this attempt to set the USA on the road to socialism; 2) the National Security crisis which identified the players in this attempt to take over the country; 3) the unholy alliance and how it works; 4) the fallout from the crisis.

1)   The basis of this attempt to take over the Government is the familiar problem of contemporary America, namely the wealth gap which now exists. In summary, the 80% of the country’s wealth will soon be controlled by 1% of the population.

The results of this disparity are potentially catastrophic to America because it means that the buying power of the middle class is fast disappearing in an economy which depends (68%) on consumer spending.

Secondly, it means that most of the population will depend on a few billionaires, who will employ most of these individuals.

Thirdly, all that has to be done is for these billionaires to band together in support of the politicians who are indebted to them for their financing and whose votes are therefore controlled by the oligarchs.

There are only three ways to rectify the wealth gap: the (rising water rises all ships – called the Reagan economy – which is also the Trump economy, which has never worked in re-distributing the wealth; give the extra money to the government through taxes, which then distributes it to the 68%, usually through welfare, thus turning independent citizens into an ever expanding welfare class, totally dependent on government.

The third way is a free market re-distribution of wealth. This is a recent movement which is based on a re-definition of capitalism, best exemplified by a new movement called Conscious Capitalism.

2) The National Security crisis which identified the players in this attempt to take over the country

This is the crisis concerning Hunter Biden and his successful sale of his father’s influence to foreign countries and individuals for billions of dollars.

This past week provided a treasure trove of emails and pictures from the younger Biden’s computer hard drive, which clearly identified the work which Hunter Biden was engaged in as well as evidence in his father’s complicit role in this corruption.

Since China was the biggest source of the Biden family take, it is clear that the Democrat nominee is unfit to serve as the Chief Executive of the United States. If true, he is a traitor to his country.

3)  The unholy alliance and how it works

The next act in this drama was the withdrawal of the New York Post tweet announcing its story on the Biden’s, soon followed by Facebook. This incident brought to light these firms and the immense power they have accumulated by abusing the federal law exempting them from libel laws.

This was the identification of the final players in the unholy alliance. The observation has been made that the takeover by the new oligarchs will be a soft coup d’ tat, this without violence or bloody revolution.

It will be done though automation. With the communications of the entire nation subject to the control of the billionaires, the people cannot communicate except though “Big Brother” as George Orwell predicted in his book 1984 (he may have been off in his timing, but his description of ordinary life was vey revealing).

So, this is the way it works: The billionaires (player #1) unite to supply and direct the press (player #2), use high technology to control all personal communications (player #3), buy a political party (player #4), fund all its candidates ( player #5) which in turn funds the Deep State (player #6) and BINGO! The Socialist America is born.

Most of this scenario has already taken place. The 2016 election was a trial run for the future. They believe the mistakes of 2016 have been analyzed and corrected, they believe. The only obstacle is Donald J. Trump. He should have been one of the oligarchs but instead chose to defy the entire alliance. So they tested their system by using the presss to neutralize him with a hate campaign, use of the bought House to impeach him based on the enlistment of the Deep State to provide false evidence.

They came within one Senate vote of succeeding.

But still he stands – between total power of the unholy alliance and secondary status. He had better beware – if he wins the pending election, He may be walking around with a target on his back.

4)  The fallout from the crisis.

a. The FBI held the Hunter Biden evidence for a whole year, including exculpatory evidence which would have proven that the president was innocent prima facie Leads to the probability that the Deep Sate is still active in the FBI.

b. The Justice Department has filed suite against Twitter and Facebook for obstructing justice (The grounds for the lawsuit are not yet public knowledge.)

The table is set by the unholy alliance to take over the country. All that is lacking is a Biden victory in the coming election. The only force standing in the way is Donald J. Trump.Unless we stand with him.


Meet The New Censors: Facebook’s Zuckerberg, Twitter’s Dorsey And YouTube’s Wojcicki

Investor’s Business Daily

We can remember when the left used to accuse conservatives of being prudish censors. Now it’s the left that appears determined to censor speech it doesn’t like. And they appear to have three incredibly powerful allies in their quest: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The CEO’s of those tech giants — Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Susan Wojcicki — routinely describe their services as neutral platforms, fiercely committed to openness and free expression.

“Twitter stands for freedom of expression,” Dorsey once declared. Twitter’s general manager in the U.K. once called it “the free speech wing of the free speech party.”

YouTube parent Google claims that “the flow of ideas and open access to information on the web helps communities grow and nations prosper.”

Zuckerberg told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that Facebook is “a platform for all ideas.” Continue reading


Yesterday’s Giants, Today’s Dwarves

The Left’s highly selective application of today’s standards to yesterday’s heroes.

By Victor Davis Hanson     •     National Review

politically correct zipper free speech censorshipThe latest round of condemning the past on the moral criteria of the present started with banning the Confederate flag from public places. Now it is on to airbrushing away progressive old white guy Woodrow Wilson, in Trotskyized fashion, from public commemoration.

But do those on the Left realize that they are rapidly becoming captives to the consequences of their own ideology? Their current effort to rewrite the past is doomed to failure for a variety of reasons.

Left-Wing Hypocrisy

First, this damnation of memory is not a balanced enterprise, but predicated on today’s notions of politics, race, and gender. No one is insisting that the great work of Martin Luther King Jr. be dismissed from the pantheon of American heroism because he was a known plagiarist and often a callous womanizer who did not live up to our current notions of gender equality. The racist eugenicist Margaret Sanger is still a saint. Continue reading


Liberalism’s Imaginary Enemies

In Paris, it’s easier to battle a climate crisis than confront jihadists on the streets.

By Bret Stephens     •     Wall Street Journal

Child Yelling Liberal DemocratLittle children have imaginary friends. Modern liberalism has imaginary enemies.

Hunger in America is an imaginary enemy. Liberal advocacy groups routinely claim that one in seven Americans is hungry—in a country where the poorest counties have the highest rates of obesity. The statistic is a preposterous extrapolation from a dubious Agriculture Department measure of “food insecurity.” But the line gives those advocacy groups a reason to exist while feeding the liberal narrative of America as a savage society of haves and have nots. Continue reading


How political correctness rules in America’s student ‘safe spaces’

A student backlash against hearing words and ideas that oppose their own, citing emotional “trauma”, is changing the culture of the American campus

by Ruth Sherlock     •     Telegraph

Harvard Law School Photo: Alamy

Far from the bra-burning, devil-may-care attitudes at universities in the Sixties and Seventies, today’s generation of American students increasingly appears to yearn for a campus ruled by dogmatic political correctness, in which faculty members assume the role of parents more than purveyors of academic rigour.

The lexicon of college has changed: students now speak about “micro-aggressions”, “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces”. Continue reading


Dershowitz: ‘The Fog of Fascism Is Descending Quickly Over Many American Universities’

By Zachary Leshin

Former Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. (AP)

Retired Harvard University Law Professor Alan Dershowitz strongly criticized the recent protests at the University of Missouri and Yale University, stating that “these students are book burners,” and “the fog of fascism is descending quickly over many American universities.”

Dershowitz made his comments during an interview on The Kelly File on Thursday. When asked for his reaction about the student unrest at Yale and the University of Missouri, Dershowitz said, “These are the same people who claim they are seeking diversity. The last thing many of these students want is real diversity, diversity of ideas. They may want superficial diversity, diversity of gender, diversity of color, but they don’t want diversity of ideas.” Continue reading


Prominent Harvard Professor Uses No Filter, Sends Scathing Message to Student Protesters

by Kaitlyn Schallhorn     •     The Blaze

Child Yelling Liberal DemocratAs college students nationwide garner national media attention for their protests against school administrations and perceived racial injustices on their campuses, famed Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz has a word for them: hypocrites.

In a no-holds-barred interview with Business Insider, Dershowitz argued that “the last thing these students want is diversity.”

“They may want superficial diversity, because for them diversity is a code word for ‘more of us,’” he said. “They don’t want more conservatives, they don’t want more white students, they don’t want more heterosexuals.” Continue reading


Halfway to Wrecking Internet Freedom

To forestall censorship by authoritarian governments, the White House must renew the Icann contract.

By L. Gordon Crovitz     •     The Wall Street Journal

internet-censorshipWe’re at the midpoint between the Obama administration’s March announcement that it would end U.S. protection of the open Internet and September 2015, when the change is supposed to happen. During this time, there has been no progress finding an alternative for protecting the Internet from authoritarian governments.

That’s no surprise—except to Obama administration officials who apparently never considered how hard it would be to replace U.S. stewardship. Continue reading


Policy Backgrounder: Ensuring a Free Internet – ICANN Transition Moving in the Wrong Direction

FOF Policy Backgrounder

by Jared Smith

Overview

When the United States Government announced its intent to forfeit its historical role of providing oversight for the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS), it did so prematurely – before ensuring that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) would be independent and strong with a clearly limited role. The vague conditions of the transition set forth by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) allow room for the process to be potentially subverted by unfriendly governments or intergovernmental organizations with ulterior motives – or neutered by ICANN itself. As the process moves forward, the United States must require that ICANN be able to ensure its ability to maintain the security, stability, resiliency, and openness of the Internet Domain Name System, while meeting the needs and expectations of global customers and partners of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and supporting a multi-stakeholder model of governance.  

Background

Since the establishment of ICANN’s contract with the NTIA to manage the backend functions of the Internet in 1998, the United States Federal Government has repeatedly expressed the desire to privatize oversight of the DNS process. However, the privatization of ICANN’s role has routinely been delayed due to ICANN’s inability to perform its proper functions without the guidance of the NTIA.

Since the late 1990s, Presidential Administrations and Congress have supported the NTIA in its goal of ensuring  the Internet’s core functions are controlled by the broad Internet community; the importance of these functions is too great to risk foreign government interference. As the Internet has matured, it has grown in scope and importance. Concerns have been raised regarding the power vacuum the United States’ absence would create. Governments with unfriendly views towards an open Internet – including Russia, China, and even some democracies – have made their intentions and desires to limit critical speech well-known. Were one of these nations able to exert influence over ICANN, they could potentially limit or favor specific domain names based on political affiliations or organization. If a government were successful in limiting free speech on the Internet, it could serve as precedent for limitation of speech and discrimination against minorities in other venues or through mediums. Continue reading


White House Approving & Disapproving Content of Press Reports

by Paul Farhi   •   Washington Post

mediabiasWhite House journalists are creating an alternative system for distributing their media “pool” reports in response to the Obama administration’s involvement in approving and disapproving certain content in official reports.

A small group of reporters initiated an online forum this month in which they shared “pool” information among themselves, without White House involvement. The forum was set up by the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), which negotiates with the White House’s press staff over access for journalists.

Pool reports — those summaries of the president’s public appearances that go to the news media at large and are used in countless news stories — are filed by a rotating group of journalists whose work is intended to be free of content changes by the White House.

The pool journalists, however, must submit their reports to the White House press office, which distributes them via e-mail to hundreds of news organizations and others. The White House maintains the list of recipients.

Reporters have complained that the Obama White House exploits its role as distributor to demand changes in pool reports and that the press office has delayed or refused to distribute some reports until they are amended to officials’ satisfaction. Continue reading


Thought police aggressively on patrol

Free Speech Censorship First Amendment 1stby Charles Krauthammer

Two months ago, a petition bearing more than 110,000 signatures was delivered to The Post, demanding a ban on any article questioning global warming. The petition arrived the day before publication of my column, which consisted of precisely that heresy.

The column ran as usual. But I was gratified by the show of intolerance because it perfectly illustrated my argument that the left is entering a new phase of ideological agitation — no longer trying to win the debate but stopping debate altogether, banishing from public discourse any and all opposition.

The proper word for that attitude is totalitarian. It declares certain controversies over and visits serious consequences — from social ostracism to vocational defenestration — upon those who refuse to be silenced. Continue reading


The FEC’s plan to police the newsroom

Media Bias - ObamaWhy is the agency studying ‘perceived station bias’ and asking about coverage choices?

by Ajit Pai

News organizations often disagree about what Americans need to know. MSNBC, for example, apparently believes that traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., is the crisis of our time. Fox News, on the other hand, chooses to cover the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi more heavily than other networks. The American people, for their part, disagree about what they want to watch.

But everyone should agree on this: The government has no place pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.

Unfortunately, the Federal Communications Commission, where I am a commissioner, does not agree. Last May the FCC proposed an initiative to thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country. With its “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. A field test in Columbia, S.C., is scheduled to begin this spring. Continue reading


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