The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) against the U.S. Department of Commerce seeking access to communication records of conservative individuals and groups that are fighting to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Their FOIA request with Department of Commerce sub-agency, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) targets “emails, text messages, and other communications from NTIA Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce Adam Candeub, who was recently named to a senior position at the Department of Justice, and others.”
“From the limited information the agency has provided, it is already clear that Mr. Candeub has been using his personal email to conduct government business,” the Complaint states.
The following list of conservatives are among the “keywords or phrases” sought in AFPF’s fishing expedition: Section 230; AT&T, Federal Communications Commission or FCC ; FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr; founder and CEO of Iggy Ventures Rick Lane, founder of the conservative Internet Accountability Project Mike Davis, public affairs consulting firm DCI Group, Media Research Center (MRC), MRC founder Brent Bozell, Conservative Partnership Institute’s Rachael(sic) Bovard, vice president for TechWatch Dan Gainor, and DCI Vice President Emily Covington.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects powerful tech companies from being sued for the content users post on their sites. The provision also allows Big Tech to “restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be … objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”
In an oped this week in USA Today, Rachel Bovard, one of the individuals targeted in the FOIA request, argued that nation’s largest tech companies have exploited Section 230 to chip away at the free speech of conservatives.
When Google decides to suppress or amplify content, it does so for 90% of the global marketplace. Twitter’s choices to cut off circulation of certain content — as they did when they banned circulation of a story critical of the Biden family, a month before the November election — very much shapes the national news narrative. Facebook, by its own admission, has the power to swing elections — which is troubling, as some of the platform’s “fact checkers” are partially bankrolled by a Chinese company.
The downstream impact these companies have on shaping independent thought, market access, consumer behavior, election integrity and speech are undeniable. In a very real way, these platforms are transforming the nature of what it means to be “free” in a free society.
The AFPF lawsuit was roundly decried by conservatives on Twitter.
“This is vindictive and petty,” said Claremont Institute Jon Schweppe, Director of Government Affairs for American Principles Project. “These are supposedly our allies? Really? FFS.”
This is vindictive and petty. These are supposedly our allies? Really? FFS. https://t.co/YSVP0P1NGZ
— Dr. Jon Schweppe, DDS (@JonSchweppe) December 15, 2020
“AFP [Americans for Prosperity] and CKI [Charles Koch Industries] are literally handing over conservatives to the Biden administration to feast upon,” tweeted Bovard. “Trump is leaving office, and so is Adam Candeub. This lawsuit will be settled by the Biden admin, who will harass the hell out of us.”
AFP and CKI are literally handing over conservatives to the Biden administration to feast upon. Trump is leaving office, and so is Adam Candeub.
This lawsuit will be settled by the Biden admin, who will harass the hell out of us. Which is apparently Casey's goal. https://t.co/eXnHcFllf3
— Rachel Bovard (@rachelbovard) December 15, 2020
American Greatness publisher Chris Buskirk argued on Twitter that the Koch’s lawsuit is really about harassing people working on the repeal of Section 230, or “protecting TechnoFeudalism.”
The Kochs say this is about “transparency”.
It’s really a lawsuit aimed at conservatives like @rachelbovard designed to harass people working on repeal of section 230 protections that allow Big Tech to censor political speech.
Short version: Kochs protecting TechnoFeudalism. https://t.co/js55I85GKK
— Chris Buskirk (@thechrisbuskirk) December 15, 2020