FCC commissioner shoots down ‘absurd’ claim that the federal government can block Musk’s Twitter purchase

Brendan Carr, a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), rejected a left-leaning organization’s claim that the FCC has the authority to block Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, in part because Musk also owns Starlink.

After Twitter accepted Musk’s $44 billion offer Monday, the Open Markets Institute warned that the deal represents a threat to “American democracy and free speech,” suggested the deal is illegal, and argued that the federal government has 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,” OMI Director Barry Lynn said in a statement. “Open Markets also believes the deal violates existing law, and that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have ample authority to block it.”

Twitter headquarters is seen in San Francisco, California, United States on October 27, 2021. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Lynn noted that “the deal would give to a single 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 OMI director claimed that “the American people have an absolute right to ensure the full openness and neutrality of all essential public infrastructure.” He also noted that the US government has used anti-trust law in the communications sphere.

“Mr. Musk already controls one of the most important internet platforms in the world – in the form of the satellite communications system Starlink,” Lynn noted. “Since the late 19th Century, the US government has routinely 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 the owners of Starlink.”

This long-exposure image shows a trail of a group of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites passing over Uruguay as seen from the countryside some 185 km north of Montevideo near Capilla del Sauce, Florida Department, on February 7, 2021. (Photo by MARIANA SUAREZ/AFP via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Lynn ended the letter by encouraging the federal government not just to block Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, but to regulate Facebook, Google, and Amazon by firmly reestablishing “clear bans on any manipulation of communications by essential platforms, and to eliminate all business models that rely on such manipulation.”

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Brendan Carr, a Trump-appointed FCC commissioner, shot down Lynn’s claim as “absurd.”

“The FCC has no authority to block Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, and to suggest otherwise is absurd,” Carr said in a statement Wednesday. “I would welcome the full FCC making it clear that we will not entertain these types of frivolous arguments.”

Federal Communication Commission Commissioner Brendan Carr testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill December 05, 2019, in Washington, DC (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Carr has previously expressed optimism about the Musk acquisition of Twitter.

“I’m hopeful that Elon Musk is going to bend Twitter’s content moderation towards a greater embrace of free speech,” Carr said on FOX Business earlier this week.

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Tesla, the Department of Justice, and the FTC did not immediately respond to FOX Business’ after-hours requests for comment.

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