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Democrats Cave To Corporate Smear Campaign Against Gigi Sohn

Putting Net Neutrality, Privacy, And Abortion Rights At Risk.

The Washington Post is reporting that Gigi Sohn, the Biden administration’s nominee for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will withdraw her nomination, after Democrats failed to stand up to an outrageous and bigoted smear campaign funded by the telecom industry. Sohn’s withdrawal plunges the Biden administration’s supposed priorities into peril: deadlocked at 2-2, the FCC will be unable to restore net neutrality, enforce privacy rules, or use its authority to protect the location data of people seeking or facilitating abortions.

The following can be attributed to Evan Greer (she/her), Director at Fight for the Future:

Let’s be perfectly clear: Democrats promised to restore net neutrality and FCC oversight of telecom monopolies, and instead they caved to corporate interests and homophobic smears. The same telecom companies that were caught red handed funding a flood of fraudulent comments to the FCC and paying for misleading robocalls to senior citizens to kill net neutrality rules now will seemingly get to pick their own regulator, just as they did with Ajit Pai.

Democrats’ failure to stand up to the telecom industry and condemn the homophobic smears targeting Sohn will have devastating effects for human rights, free expression, and public safety. Even if the White House names a new nominee, there may not be enough time for the FCC to move forward with key priorities like restoring net neutrality and broadband privacy rules. By allowing Sohn’s nomination to be undermined by disingenuous attacks and refusing to condemn them, the Biden administration and Senate Democrats have set a terrible precedent for future public interest nominees and LGBTQ nominees.

It’s worth specifically calling out the ridiculous attacks from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), an organization with an extensive history of racism and “pay for play” relationships with many corporate lobbyists. The FOP ran an utterly fact-free campaign of lies targeting Gigi Sohn, gesturing bug-eyed toward Qanon style conspiracies. They claimed that Sohn’s role on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a highly respected civil liberties organization, made her “anti-police,” because of EFF’s support for strong encryption. These deeply unserious attacks are all the more absurd because the FCC has absolutely no authority over this issue area. It’s like opposing an EPA nominee because you don’t like their taste in music. The only thing more embarrassing than the FOP’s ludicrous line of attack is the fact that top Democrats fell for it, pandering to the far right while ignoring the overwhelming support for Gigi Sohn from LGBTQ groups, unions, civil rights leaders, business associations, librarians, educators, first responders, and reproductive rights groups.

The timing couldn’t be worse. ISPs are under immense pressure to censor legitimate content, including websites with accurate information about abortion care and LGBTQ issues, with state legislatures passing bills demanding ISPs block entire websites. Meanwhile, lack of FCC oversight has enabled collection and sale of cell phone location data that puts vulnerable communities at risk of stalking, harassment, and surveillance. A fully staffed FCC could address these issues. Biden’s deadlocked FCC is utterly impotent. And marginalized communities will pay the price for Democrats’ incompetence and cowardice.

Now that Sohn has withdrawn her nomination, the White House will have to pick a new nominee. We will fight tooth and nail to ensure that they don’t pick another Ajit Pai clone. We demand an FCC commissioner that will fight for the public interest, and one that has no ties to the telecom industry that the agency is supposed to regulate.

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