Brendan Carr, Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has dismissed a leftist organization’s claim that the FCC has the power to block Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, in part because that Musk also owns Starlink.
After Twitter accepted Musk’s $44 billion offer on Monday, the Open Markets Institute warned the deal posed a threat to “American democracy and free speech,” suggesting the deal was illegal and argued that the federal government had the power to block it.
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“The Open Markets Institute believes the deal poses a number of immediate and direct threats to American democracy and free speech,” IMO Director Barry Lynn said in a statement. “Open Markets also believes the deal violates existing law and that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Department of Justice (DOJ), and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have ample authority to block it.”
Lynn noted that “the deal would give one 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.”
Citing Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, the Telegraph Acts of 1860 and 1866, the Mann-Elkins Act of 1910 and the Communications Act of 1934, the IMO Director asserted that “the American people have the right absolute to ensure the full openness and neutrality of all critical public infrastructure.” He also noted that the US government has used anti-trust law in the area of communications.
“Mr. Musk already controls one of the most important internet platforms in the world – in the form of the Starlink satellite communications system,” Lynn noted. “Since the late 19th century, the US government has regularly acted to prevent mergers between existing essential platforms. … This means that, just as we would now expect the US government to block a takeover of Twitter by Google, Facebook, Comcast or Verizon, the same rules apply to Starlink owners.”
Lynn ended the letter by encouraging the federal government not only to block Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, but to regulate Facebook, Google and Amazon by firmly reinstating “clear prohibitions on any manipulation of communications by essential platforms, and eliminating all business models that rely on such manipulations.”
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Brendan Carr, an FCC commissioner appointed by Trump, called Lynn’s claim “absurd.”
“The FCC does not have the authority to block Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, and to suggest otherwise is absurd,” Carr said in a statement Wednesday. “I would be happy for the full FCC to make it clear that we will not accept these kinds of frivolous arguments.”
“It doesn’t surprise me that some special interest groups are considering throwing the kitchen sink at this transaction in an effort to derail it,” Carr added in a statement to FOX Business.
“Of course, the FCC does not have the authority to block this transaction. And while I am unable to speak for the DOJ or the FTC – the other agencies identified in this Open Markets Institute statement — I’m not aware of any basis on which a federal agency can block it,” he said. “But I defer to those agencies to talk about the extent of their powers.”
“Enough [it] say, it is far from clear that the groups opposing this transaction will do so because they are interested in the neutral application of competition and antitrust laws — these efforts look like a decision motivated by the desire to prevent the free exchange of political opinions on Twitter,” Carr concluded.
Carr has previously expressed optimism about Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.
“I hope Elon Musk will shift Twitter’s content moderation toward greater freedom of speech,” Carr told FOX Business earlier this week.
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Tesla, the Justice Department and the FTC did not immediately respond to FOX Business’ after-hours requests for comment.