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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai testifies at a Senate hearing June 16, 2020. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai says online platforms should be forced to explain their practices in the much the same way he required of broadband providers like Comcast and AT&T.

The big picture: Pai paired those transparency requirements with his 2017 repeal of net neutrality rules. Open-internet proponents feared the repeal would lead to ISPs blocking websites or deliberately slowing traffic, but bipartisan concern has largely shifted to the power of platforms like Google and Facebook to shape what people see online.

What they're saying: In an interview with Axios, Pai took a dig at online companies that supported net neutrality rules for broadband providers who appear to be "unwilling to abide by" similar rules themselves.

  • While he stopped short of calling for regulation, he said he believes most consumers don't understand what is and isn't allowed online, and would benefit from additional transparency on content moderation decisions.
  • "The FCC instituted a strict transparency requirement applicable to internet service providers," Pai told Axios. "They have to disclose, either on their own website, or to the FCC, information about their business practices. What is the argument against requiring tech giants who operate in a similar adjacent space to abide by the same restrictions?"

And while Pai said he didn't second-guess the immediate actions Twitter and Facebook took against President Trump's accounts in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, he did question Twitter's subsequent decision to permanently ban Trump.

  • "There are questions about transparency and consistency," Pai said. "Transparency into how the decision was made, who the decision makers were, why they reached the result they did. Also in terms of consistency — why in this case, but not in the case of the Supreme Leader of Iran?"

What's next: Pai steps down from the FCC on Jan. 20 and told Axios he hasn't made any plans on what he'll do next.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jan 21, 2021 - Podcasts

Net neutrality on the line under Biden

Federal net neutrality rules are back on the table in the Biden administration, after being nixed by Trump, but now might be complicated by the debate over social media companies' behavior.

Axios Re:Cap digs into why net neutrality matters and what comes next with Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of The Verge and host of the Decoder podcast.

DiDi to delist from NYSE under Chinese govt pressure

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Chinese ride-hail giant DiDi said it will delist from the New York Stock Exchange, following a Chinese government crackdown on foreign listings.

Why it matters: This reflects how geopolitical tensions are bleeding into the capital markets.

Updated 22 mins ago - Health

Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states

A healthcare worker inserts a Covid-19 rapid test into a machine in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Daniel Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hawaii became on Thursday the fifth state to confirm the newly discovered Omicron variant after New York announced five new cases earlier in the day.

The latest: In Hawaii, the variant was found in an unvaccinated O'ahu resident with moderate symptoms who had previously been infected with COVID-19, per a state health department statement. The variant has also been confirmed in California, Colorado and Minnesota.