Rep. Waxman Wants to Apply Censorship Doctrine to Internet

February 17th, 2009 2:10 AM

 If Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) is not trying to investigate conservatives, he is trying to squelch their voices.  Waxman has jumped into the so-called Fairness Doctrine discussion as of late.  Waxman, however, has added another dimension to the issue...the internet (h/t The Prowler).

Media Research Center's Jeff Poor Robert McDowell last year about the internet and the Fairness Doctrine.   McDowell talked about a real possibility of internet content being regulated in the near future.

According to The Prowler, Waxman and his staff are already looking at ways to police content on the web. (emphasis mine throughout)

Senior FCC staff working for acting Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps held meetings last week with policy and legislative advisers to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman to discuss ways the committee can create openings for the FCC to put in place a form of the "Fairness Doctrine" without actually calling it such.
Waxman is also interested, say sources, in looking at how the Internet is being used for content and free speech purposes. "It's all about diversity in media," says a House Energy staffer, familiar with the meetings. "Does one radio station or one station group control four of the five most powerful outlets in one community? Do four stations in one region carry Rush Limbaugh, and nothing else during the same time slot? Does one heavily trafficked Internet site present one side of an issue and not link to sites that present alternative views? These are some of the questions the chairman is thinking about right now, and we are going to have an FCC that will finally have the people in place to answer them."

Waxman and his staff are also thinking about creating congressionally mandated advisory boards to police both radio and TV programming:

One idea Waxman's committee staff is looking at is a congressionally mandated policy that would require all TV and radio stations to have in place "advisory boards" that would act as watchdogs to ensure "community needs and opinions" are given fair treatment. Reports from those advisory boards would be used for license renewals and summaries would be reviewed at least annually by FCC staff.

 What about policing internet content?  According to The Prowler, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is already looking into this.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is also looking at how it can put in place policies that would allow it greater oversight of the Internet. "Internet radio is becoming a big deal, and we're seeing that some web sites are able to control traffic and information, while other sites that may be of interest or use to citizens get limited traffic because of the way the people search and look for information," says on committee staffer. "We're at very early stages on this, but the chairman has made it clear that oversight of the Internet is one of his top priorities."

This is all hardly a surprise, as liberals have never liked that internet content is not regulated in some way.

Hillary Clinton made her views known on this issue back in 1998, when her husband was embroiled in the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.  Matt Drudge reported on Clinton’s comments about regulating internet content.

Hillary Clinton Continued:
I don't have any clue about what we're going to do legally, regulatorily, technologically -- I don't have a clue. But I do think we always have to keep competing interests in balance. I'm a big pro-balance person. That's why I love the founders -- checks and balances; accountable power. Anytime an individual or an institution or an invention leaps so far out ahead of that balance and throws a system, whatever it might be -- political, economic, technological --out of balance, you've got a problem, because then it can lead to the oppression people's rights, it can lead to the manipulation of information, it can lead to all kinds of bad outcomes which we have seen historically. So we're going to have to deal with that. And I hope a lot of smart people are going to --"

In 1999, then-Deputy Attorney General (now Attorney General) Eric Holder talked about “reasonable restrictions” on internet content following the tragedy of the Columbine Massacre. 

Last November, I asked FCC Commissioner and Fairness Doctrine cheerleader Michael Copps about his thoughts on applying the Fairness Doctrine to the Internet.

I think we do have to have an expectation that the internet, if that is going to become the primary vehicle for even broadcast over the years...not tomorrow or the next day, but over the years, there has to be some discussion about how the internet encourages a civic dialogue that’s adequate to the needs of the country, but I think that’s way premature too say exactly this.  We haven’t even teed up the question.  I’m trying to get people to talk about it.  If we can talk about it then maybe we can come up with some intelligent answers.

However, government regulation of private citizen’s speech is un-constitutional. Waxman and company may be biting off more than they can chew on this one.

Liberals only quieted down some about internet content regulation, when they found how the internet could benefit themselves in elections.  

Angering a liberal base that enjoys reading websites like Daily Kos, Huffington Post, and Democratic Underground would be risky.  After all, if Waxman is insistent that all internet content is to be policed for so-called balance, that should include liberal sites as well….right, Congressman Waxman?

Photo credit: PBS

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