Bradley Smith, a law professor and former Republican Federal Election Commissioner, is set to serve on the board of a new advocacy group aimed at defending Big Tech companies from regulation. Smith previously ran the “Institute for Free Speech,” which similarly opposed the regulation of Silicon Valley giants.
As Breitbart News reported yesterday, a new lobbying group called “American Edge” is being set up with the quiet support of Facebook. The group’s aim is to defend big tech against Republican and Democrat efforts to rein in their unaccountable power.
According to the Washington Post, which broke the story, the group will argue that Big Tech companies are “essential” to free speech on the internet.
Smith, one of the Republicans on the board of American Edge, is known for his opposition to campaign finance reform, which aims to make it harder for big money to dominate American politics. He founded the Institute for Free Speech (previously called the Center for Competitive Politics) after leaving the FEC. The Institute’s initial purpose was to lobby against campaign finance reform.
In recent years, the Institute for Free Speech has argued that Congress should not alter Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives tech companies virtually limitless power to censor their users.
In 2019, the Institute argued that altering Section 230 somehow “threatens the First Amendment.” The article simultaneously acknowledge that Section 230 empowered tech companies to censor their platforms, while arguing that the law should not be altered:
Senator Cruz has forgotten, or misrepresents, that Section 230 was created to encourage platforms to remove objectionable content, not to enforce “neutrality.” Had Internet companies simply been treated as publishers, they would have been liable for any illegal content that appeared on their platforms. The only way Internet companies could have avoided liability would be to adopt a completely hands-off approach to content moderation, but this presented its own problems.
The founder of the “Institute for Free Speech” has been rewarded for his organization’s efforts by being tapped to serve on the board of the new Facebook-backed advocacy group. In Washington, shilling for big tech companies clearly pays dividends.
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Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.