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FCC commissioner shoots down ‘absurd’ demand of George Soros funded group to block Elon Musk’s Twitter acquisition

FCC commissioner Brendan Carr said, "These efforts look like a move motivated by a desire to prevent the free exchange of political views on Twitter."

On 27th April 2022, a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rejected the demand to block Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr shot down the demand terming it as ‘absurd’, which was raised by a left-leaning group Open Markets Institute which is funded by investor George Soros. The Commissioner clarified that the FCC has not such authority to block the deal, and that’s why termed the demand as ‘absurd’.

Open Markets Institute is an anti Big Tech group which fights against alleged monopolies by social media giants. It claimed that Elon Musk purchasing Twitter will be a direct threat to free speech in America. The group also claimed that as Musk already owns the Starlink satellite broadband network, he should not be allowed to own Twitter.

Open Markets Institute (OMI) had published a statement on 26th April 2022 in which it said, “Twitter’s board agreed to sell the corporation to Elon Musk, the owner of Tesla and SpaceX. The Open Markets Institute believes the deal poses a number of immediate and direct threats to American democracy and free speech. Open Markets also believes the deal violates existing law, and that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have ample authority to block it.”

It further said, “The most obvious problem is that the deal would give to a single man – one who already wields immense political and economic power – direct control over one of the world’s most important platforms for public communications and debate. As has been true from the Founding, the American people have an absolute right to ensure the full openness and neutrality of all essential public infrastructure.”

They added, “Yesterday’s deal also violates the law at a more technical level. Mr. Musk already controls one of the most important internet platforms in the world – in the form of the satellite communications system Starlink.” The group said that as US government already prevents mergers between existing “essential platforms”, the deal should be blocked. The group said, “as we would now expect the U.S. government to block a takeover of Twitter by Google, Facebook, Comcast, or Verizon, the same rules apply to the owners of Starlink”.

The OMI statement added, “Elon Musk’s effort to buy Twitter is not the only threat to free communications and debate in the United States. The size, scope, and business models of Facebook, Google, and Amazon also pose a wide variety of often extreme threats to American democracy and the basic rights of citizens. That’s why law enforcers and Congress should view this deal as an opportunity to firmly reestablish clear bans on any manipulation of communications by essential platforms, and to eliminate all business models that rely on such manipulation.”

Brendan Carr, a Trump-appointed FCC commissioner, shot down this claim signed by OMI Director Barry Lynn as absurd, saying that FCC has no such authority. Carr said in a statement on Wednesday 27th April 2022, “The FCC has no authority to block Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, and to suggest otherwise is absurd. I would welcome the full FCC making it clear that we will not entertain these types of frivolous arguments.” He also added that it is particularly frivolous to ask the agency to do so in the name of protecting free speech and open debate.

While talking to the Fox Business, Brendan Carr said, “It does not surprise me to see that some interest groups are planning on throwing the kitchen sink at this transaction in an effort to derail it. Of course, the FCC has no authority to block this transaction. And while I am not in a position to speak for the DOJ or the FTC – the other agencies that were identified in that Open Markets Institute release – I am not aware of any basis upon which any federal agency can block it. But I defer to those agencies to speak to the scope of their authorities.”

Brendan Carr concluded by saying “Suffice it to say, it is far from clear that the groups objecting to this transaction are going to do so because they’re interested in the neutral application of competition and antitrust laws – these efforts look like a move motivated by a desire to prevent the free exchange of political views on Twitter.”

It is notable that Open Markets Institute is one of the groups funded by billionaire investor George Soros. His organization Open Society Foundation had provided a $180,000 two-year grant in 2018 to the Open Markets Institute for work around web platforms. Open Society Foundations acting Co-Director of U.S. Programs Laleh Ispahani earlier said in a statement, “Mr. Soros’s speech reflected rising concern about the effects of a handful of giant internet platforms having so much influence, and we’re certainly examining new ways we might address those concerns in ongoing conversations not just in the U.S. but among our foundation colleagues globally.”

According to the Open Society Foundation, the sole purpose of investing in the Open Markets Institute is reimagining pathways for algorithmic accountability of platforms and organizations that produce and distribute content, such as search and recommendation engines and social media.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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