This week: FCC requests comment on social media order as White House withdraws O’Rielly nomination; U.S. Justice Department asks court to block California net neutrality law; FTC Commissioners testify before Senate Commerce on Section 230, antitrust; Congress voices support for Open Technology Fund; National Institutes of Health announces new COVID-19 testing technologies.

FCC Requests Comment on Social Media Order as White House Withdraws O’Rielly Nomination

On July 27, the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) filed a Petition for Rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) related to President Trump’s May Executive Order on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced on Monday the agency would collect public comment on the petition; initial comments are due by September 2 and reply comments are due by September 17. The Petition would have the FCC create regulations to clarify the scope of the liability protections afforded under Section 230 for third party users.

Also on Monday, President Trump withdrew Republican Commissioner Mike O’Rielly’s renomination to another five year term. O’Rielly has been a member of the FCC since 2013 and was confirmed for a second term in January 2015. His reappointment would have been retroactive to June 30, 2019 and would conclude in 2024, but now he must step down at year’s end.

Although President Trump has not commented on rescinding O’Rielly’s renomination, reports indicate the decision might have to do with the Commissioner’s reservations regarding the President’s Executive Order to clarify the scope of Section 230, and in particular whether the FCC has proper authority to limit social media companies’ legal protections. He expressed his concern in remarks last week before The Media Institute, whose primary mission is to promote freedom of speech. The decision could also relate to O’Rielly’s support for Ligado Network’s plan to use L-Band spectrum to support 5G and other Internet of Things services. Just last week, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) placed a hold on O’Rielly’s renomination over the FCC’s Ligado order.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.