Senate Committee To Hear FTC, FCC Nominees Wednesday

The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the nomination of privacy expert Alvaro Bedoya to the Federal Trade Commission, and the re-nomination of Jessica Rosenworcel to the Federal Communications Commission, where she currently serves as chair.

Bedoya -- who is founding director of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law -- is best known for proposing curbs on the use of facial-recognition technology.

Dozens of advocacy groups -- including Accountable Tech, the Center for Digital Democracy and Demand Progress -- have urged the Senate to confirm Bedoya to the agency.

On Thursday, New America’s Open Technology Institute sent a separate letter to the Senate, urging lawmakers to confirm Bedoya.

“Professor Bedoya is a pathbreaking scholar whose work has elevated the public discourse,” Joshua Stager, deputy director for broadband and competition policy at the Open Technology Institute, wrote. “When today’s law students learn privacy law, they read Alvaro Bedoya.”

Stager added that while at Georgetown, Bedoya “co-led an effort that convinced Google to ban advertising from predatory payday loan companies.”

Bedoya has also criticized the commercial use of surveillance technology -- including tracking software that can monitor people's television use by embedding audio beacons in TV ads.

He previously served as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law and its former chairman, Senator Al Franken (D.-Minnesota).

If Bedoya is confirmed, he will replace Rohit Chopra, who now heads the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Bedoya's confirmation would also give the FTC three Democratic commissioners and two Republican ones, which could position Chair Lina Khan to move forward with her agenda.

Rosenworcel, first appointed to the FCC nine years ago, has long supported net neutrality rules. In 2015, she voted in favor of the Obama-era open internet regulations -- which prohibited broadband providers from blocking or throttling traffic, and from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery.

She currently presides over an agency that is deadlocked on a partisan basis, with two Democratic members and two Republicans. Rosenworcel is unlikely to be able to move forward with plans to restore net neutrality rules until a fifth commissioner is approved.

The Senate hasn't yet scheduled a hearing on Gigi Sohn, President Biden's pick for the fifth seat.

Sohn previously served as counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who led the agency during President Obama's second term. She also co-founded the advocacy group Public Knowledge in 2001.

Earlier this week, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said he would attempt to block Sohn's appointment.

“Gigi Sohn is a complete political ideologue who has disdain for conservatives. She would be a complete nightmare for the country when it comes to regulating the public airwaves,” Graham tweeted. “I will do everything in my power to convince colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reject this extreme nominee.”

Graham linked to a Wall Street Journal editorial that suggested Sohn would attempt to censor conservative media outlets.

That Journal piece, which ran Monday, referenced an October 2020 Twitter post by Sohn, which read: “For all my concerns about #Facebook, I believe that Fox News has had the most negative impact on our democracy. It's state-sponsored propaganda, with few if any opposing viewpoints. Where's the hearing about that?”

On Wednesday, the conservative outlet Newsmax ran a piece by Brad Blakeman (formerly a member ex-President George W. Bush's senior White House staff), supporting Sohn's nomination.

“I know Gigi. I have worked with Gigi. And I have seen her fight for people's right to express themselves, even when she disagrees with them,” Blakeman wrote.

“Even when other liberals wanted to shut down conservative voices, Gigi stood up for free speech,” he added. “We will never agree on a lot of things, but Gigi Sohn will fight for my right -- and yours -- to be heard and to have access to the most important information and communications services.”

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