Don’t Regulate The Internet. It Holds The Media Accountable

Dan Backer | Attorney

Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to roll back President Obama’s far-reaching “net neutrality” regulations. A win for internet freedom, the FCC’s move will empower cable and wireless providers to tailor their services to customers based on their preferences and demand, increasing consumer choice and lowering prices.

But the internet is hardly free from government overreach. A group of 21 Democratic senators recently sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, urging him to maintain broader regulations “to improve equity and access to high-quality content.”

Anti-Trump members of Congress continue to rail against the latest boogeyman of foreign-bought political ads. (Apparently, $100,000 in digital ads that rarely mentioned the election delivered President Trump nearly 63 million votes.) Two Senate Democrats, along with anti-speech scold Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), have introduced the Honest Ads Act to strictly regulate online political spending. Liberal commentator Juan Williams recently praised the bill as a bulwark against online propaganda, which purportedly helped the president by “manipulating public opinion.”

Memo to Williams: We aren’t simpletons who can’t tell right from wrong. Anti-speech liberals always assume the worst of Americans to justify censorship. As conservative journalist Matt Drudge has long warned, the pro-censorship left’s North Star is to shut down the Drudge Report and any other news outlet that contradicts their left-wing narrative.

Meanwhile, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is working on new rules to curb political speech online and those who can engage in it, thereby restricting the flow of information that makes the internet what it is in the first place. Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic FEC Commissioner, has expressed disdain at advertising “paid for by Russia or other foreign countries.” She also supports congressional efforts to “regulate political spending on the internet.” Of course, Weintraub can’t define what that means beyond existing regulations and restricting political speech she happens to disagree with.

Washington bureaucrats are only emboldened by the liberal media, which routinely fearmongers about “money in politics” while leveraging billions of dollars in media infrastructure to deliver their own political message. One Newsweek headline reads: “Net Neutrality Repeal Would Hurt #MeToo Movement and Minority Women.” The Daily Beast outrageously claims the FCC is “making [the] internet harder for poor to access.” Another headline pins “public libraries” as the victim of a net neutrality repeal.

Outrageous headlines like these define the real threat the internet poses to political and media elites. For decades, the left-leaning mainstream media has misled the public about Republicans and conservative organizations. While the #FakeNews moniker only recently went viral, media bias has plagued non-liberals since before the days of Dan Rather, who infamously reported on documents critical of President George W. Bush that turned out to be forgeries.

The problem of media bias has only accelerated in recent months, as anti-Trump news outlets fan the flames of resistance. Look no further than Brian Ross, who remains suspended after botching a report on President Trump and alleged Russian collusion. CNN has issued multiple retractions for similar seasons. According to the Media Research Center, 90 percent of the media’s coverage of the Trump administration over the last three months has been negative.

Fortunately, the internet has decentralized the news industry, exposing media bias like never before and offering consumers infinitely more options for news consumption. News outlets like the Drudge Report didn’t exist in 1990. Today, they provide right-leaning readers who feel unrepresented by the mainstream media with more choices than ever before.

Social media only strengthens our democracy, allowing users to interact with seemingly infinite news outlets and other users. In fact, media bias has at least in part been exposed by the presence of social media websites, which have ended the mainstream media’s monopoly on mass communication. Today more than ever, mainstream reporters are forced to double- and triple-check their work, knowing they can quickly be exposed by attentive social media users.

Any attempt to regulate the internet comes into direct conflict with the First Amendment, which is what makes the internet work in the first place. Restrict online speech, and you’re left with more one-sided political dialogue and less ideological diversity.

Why is it Washington’s place to govern what we say and how we say it? That power lies with us and us alone.

Dan Backer is founding attorney of political.law, a campaign finance and political law firm in Alexandria, Virginia. He serves as interim chairman of Accuracy in Media, the first mainstream media watchdog.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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