FCC Chair Backs Bill Forcing TikTok Parent To Divest App Or Face U.S. Ban – If Legislation “Makes It To The President’s Desk, He Should Absolutely Sign It”

FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel finds it shocking that U.S. law prevents foreign ownership of old media assets but has nothing to say about new media — including wildly popular TikTok, which is owned by a Chinese company. A bill passed by the House last month that would require parent ByteDance to divest TikTok or see the app banned appears to have stalled in the Senate. But if it ever “makes it to the President’s desk, he should absolutely sign it.”

“We don’t have authority over apps like TikTok,” she told a gathering at the Paley Center in NYC today. “That being said, what strikes me most is that for decades we’ve had policies in the Communications Act that would prevent, for instance, a Chinese national or a Chinese company from owning our nation’s broadcast television stations. We would say that’s unacceptable, right? I’d be kicked out of my job if I decided otherwise. And yet here we have something that’s arguably one the newer forms of media and there there is zero oversight. I think that is stunning.”

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“Media is powerful and we want to be thoughtful of who invests in it in our country,” she said. The first female to head the powerful commission also talked about a looming vote to reinstate net neutrality rules, online privacy and her push for a new “cyber trust mark” for connected devices in the home — so “If you want to go buy a baby monitor, you can know that it adheres to some basic standards and it is safe.”

The commission is set to vote April 25 on reinstating the net neutrality rules repealed by Rosenworcel’s predecessor Agit Pai. The rules prevents internet providers from blocking or throttling consumer access to websites or services, creating fast lanes, or censoring content. Basically, net neutrality categorizes internet providers as common carriers, similar to the regulatory classification given to landline phone service. She believes reinstating them is key.

“Four years ago, we were told to go home, hunker down, and live life online. And I think, as we’ve emerged from the pandemic, one thing is really clear — broadband is an essential service. And yet the last administration decided that the nation’s communications authority, the FCC, shouldn’t have oversight of broadband. They took away our authority. They took away net neutrality rules that say you can do what you want online and your broadband provider can’t make choices for you, can’t block websites, can’t slow services or censor content.”

She acknowledged that things have been pretty quiet since the rules were abolished but said that’s mostly because a number of states set their own net neutrality regs. “California stepped in when Washington stepped out,’ she said, but the country needs a unified national strategy.

“I think consumers want oversight of broadband. And for public safety and national security purposes, we need oversight of broadband … If we’ve got malicious state actors that want to deploy broadband services in this country, having some oversight is a really good thing.”

With Democrats now holding a 3-2 majority on the commission, the proposal — vigorously opposed by internet providers — is expected to pass.

“Historically, when you pick up the phone you can call who you want .. the telephone company doesn’t tell you who to call, doesn’t cut off or clip your conversations. That is because there has been a neutrality associated with those calls. Modern communication is internet communication.”

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