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President Trump Rescinds FCC Commissioner’s Re-Nomination for a Third Term

Posted by CommLaw | Aug 10, 2020 | 0 Comments

On August 3, 2020, President Donald Trump abruptly withdrew the re-nomination of FCC Commissioner Michael O'Reilly (R), which had been pending before the U.S. Senate. Mr.  O'Rielly has been an FCC Commissioner since 2013, and the withdrawal of his re-nomination for a third term is unprecedented.

Although the White House provided no explanation, it has been reported that the action was a response to Commissioner O'Rielly's July 29, 2020 speech that indirectly referenced the President's May Executive Order effectively directing the FCC to consider whether Facebook, Twitter, and other online platforms should continue to enjoy liability immunity under Section 230 of the federal Communications Act. Although Commissioner O'Rielly said his remarks were “not in any way directed toward President Trump or those in the White House,” he stated emphatically that “we should all reject demands, in the name of the First Amendment, for private actors to curate or publish speech in a certain way.”

As required by the Executive Order, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the President's principal telecommunications and information policy adviser, filed a Petition for Rulemaking asking the FCC to clarify the scope of Section 230's protections. On the same day the President announced withdrawal of Commissioner O'Rielly's nomination, the FCC released a Public Notice triggering a public comment period on the NTIA Petition.

To date, none of the other four FCC Commissioners has issued a public statement regarding the matter.

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