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October 30, 2020
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Trump nominates social media hawk as next FCC commissioner

Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Donald Trump has nominated longtime telecom lawyer Nathan Simington to be the Federal Communications Commission’s next commissioner, as reported by Law360.

Last week, The Verge first reported that Simington had emerged as a leading candidate to replace current Republican Commissioner Mike O’Rielly. Simington, a senior adviser at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), played a significant role in drafting a petition required under the Trump administration’s social media executive order issued over the summer. The order instructs the FCC, after receiving NTIA’s petition, to reinterpret Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

The order was issued in May after Twitter fact-checked two of Trump’s tweets that made false statements about mail-in voting. It is unclear when the FCC intends to roll out a formal notice of proposed rulemaking and vote on the measure.

Simington’s nomination marks a significant break in the Trump administration’s former FCC nominations. Previously, the administration has nominated Republican commissioners in favor of light-touch telecommunications and technology policy. O’Rielly was previously nominated for a third-term by Trump, but his nomination was abruptly withdrawn after he made a speech expressing concerns over the administration’s social media order that would empower the FCC to take a unique role in regulating content moderation on social media platforms.

“As a conservative, I’m troubled voices are stifled by liberal tech leaders,” O’Rielly tweeted in May. “At same time, I’m extremely dedicated to First Amendment which governs much here.”

If Simington’s nomination is approved in the Senate, the FCC would have two Republican commissioners likely in favor of voting to approve the administration’s social media order. Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr penned an op-ed in Newsweek last month arguing that the FCC should require social media platforms to submit transparency reports similar to what internet service providers already do.

In response to the nomination, O’Rielly sent Simington best wishes on Twitter. “I extend my sincere congrats to Mr. Simington for selection to join [the FCC],” O’Rielly wrote, “and offer best wishes for a smooth confirmation process and successful term at the Commission.”

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