Bokhari: How the Trump Administration Is Fighting Big Tech

President Donald Trump speaks during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez/AP Photo

Internet freedom is on the ballot this November. For months, the Trump administration has been quietly working to curtail the power of Big Tech platforms to censor with impunity — a power it recently used to suppress the New York Post’s bombshell Biden-Ukraine story. If Biden wins, those efforts will likely come to an end.

Very little was done to address the Big Tech problem in the first years of the Trump administration when the bureaucracy was dominated by leakers from the Republican establishment and deep state saboteurs.

But that situation changed dramatically in the past year, largely thanks to the aggressive moves of the White House’s Presidential Personnel Office (PPO), and its highly effective director John McEntee.

Under previous PPO directors, like the widely criticized establishment Republican Johnny DeStefano, major efforts to rein in Big Tech like the President’s social media censorship executive order would simply have been ignored by the federal bureaucracy, which is deeply hostile to Trump’s agenda and wishes to see him out of office.

But McEntee’s PPO is bringing the bureaucracy into line, particularly on the question of tech censorship. Thanks to the PPO, law professor Adam Candeub was appointed to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), where he  has played a critical role in implementing the President’s executive order.

Candeub’s background made him perfect for the role— he’s a free speech lawyer who once sued Twitter on behalf of Meghan Murphy, a Canadian feminist who was banned from the platform for using the “wrong” gender pronouns to describe a transgender person. His fellow lawyer in the case: Harmeet Dhillon, who fought the high-profile Damore case against Google over political discrimination.

In other words, Candeub is someone who believes in free speech on social media, and who has experience fighting for it. A bureaucrat who supports the President’s agenda and has the ability to implement it.

Thanks to the PPO, Candeub was the man who wrote the petition to the Federal Communications Committee, proposing that the FCC engage in rulemaking to narrow the bounds of Section 230, a critical law that tech companies rely on to censor virtually anything they consider “objectionable.” This petition was a key part of the President’s executive order.

The petition promises to be far more consequential than any of the hearings lawmakers on Capitol Hill have held with Big Tech CEOs.

Shortly after Facebook and Twitter censored the New York Post, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released a public statement, saying he supports the petition and will move forward on Candeub’s proposed rulemaking change.

The thought of a federal agency tampering with their beloved legal privileges no doubt sent shockwaves through Silicon Valley. Without the PPO’s swift appointment of Candeub — or if a deep state saboteur had been in the position instead — Pai may have never had the opportunity to make that statement.

Pai is not the only member of the FCC. To proceed with the rulemaking change, Pai will need the support of two other members of the Commission.

Brendan Carr, one of the other two Republican commissioners, is a staunch critic of Section 230, and publicly supported Candeub’s petition. In a statement in July, Carr said:

The Section 230 petition provides an opportunity to bring much-needed clarity to the statutory text. And it allows us to move forward in a way that will empower speakers to engage in ‘a forum for a true diversity of political discourse,’ as Congress envisioned when it passed Section 230.

Michael O’Rielly, who until recently was the other Republican member of the commission, expressed skepticism about the petition. The White House responded — much to the annoyance of some Senate Republicans and Big Tech lobbyists — by declining to renominate him.

Nathan Simington, who worked with Candeub at the NTIA, was nominated instead. His nomination will have to be approved by the Senate Commerce Committee, which, under pressure from conservative critics of Big Tech, has now finally scheduled a confirmation hearing. According to a statement from the Commerce Committee, that hearing will take place on November 10.

Under John McEntee, the White House PPO has managed to maneuver its way around bureaucratic obstacles, bringing action on Big Tech censorship closer than ever before.

There are signs that McEntee will be even more aggressive in implementing the President’s agenda in a second term. Politico reports that the PPO is considering asking every political appointee for a resignation letter ahead of the election, an act that would give it maximum flexibility to make staffing changes in the event of a Trump win.

For opponents of Trump in the federal bureaucracy, this would be a nightmare.

Trump’s first term was marked by ceaseless battles with leakers and saboteurs in the deep state. Trump’s second term promises to be very different. If the rapid progress on Big Tech censorship is any guide, it would be an administration of action, with no quarter given to opponents of the President’s agenda in the federal government.

But first, Trump has to win the election.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. His new book, #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election, which contains exclusive interviews with sources inside Google, Facebook, and other tech companies, is currently available for purchase.

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