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Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A Federal Communications Commission decision on Wednesday gives wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon more power to block text and multimedia messages.

Why it matters: The Republican-led FCC says that it is just empowering the companies to block spam texts. Its critics say it opens the door to censoring other kinds of text messages, too.

Details: The FCC voted along party lines for a ruling that treats text messaging as an "information service" under the law. If texting had been classified as a "telecommunications service," as public interest groups requested more than a decade ago, providers would be subject to strict rules meant to prevent discrimination between messages from different parties.

  • Twilio, a Silicon Valley company that enables mass texting, had asked the agency to rule that wireless messages are governed by the "telecommunications" rules.
  • Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr made the case that the agency was bringing text and multimedia messaging in line with other popular Silicon Valley creations — like WhatsApp and Snapchat — that are regulated as "information services."

What they're saying:

  • "In short, we stand with American consumers, not those trying to bombard them with spam or scam robotexts," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a prepared statement.
  • Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in her statement that the commission's argument was "doublespeak" and that the decision "means your carrier now has the legal right to block your text messages and censor the very content of your messages."

The big picture: This is another example — like last year's net neutrality repeal — of regulators grappling with the boundaries of web services and the infrastructure that delivers them to consumers, with Republicans again leaning toward more deregulation and a freer hand for big providers.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
54 mins ago - 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.

House grants waiver for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to lead Pentagon

Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House voted 326-78 on Thursday to grant retired Gen. Lloyd Austin a waiver to lead the Pentagon, clearing the way for the Senate to confirm President Biden's nominee for defense secretary as early as this week.

Why it matters: Austin's nomination received pushback from some lawmakers, including Democrats, who cited a law that requires officers be out of the military for at least seven years before taking the job — a statute intended to reinforce the tradition of civilian control of the Pentagon.

Amanda Gorman steals the show on Inauguration Day

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Axios Visuals

Poet Amanda Gorman by far generated the most average interactions on social media on Inauguration Day, according to exclusive data from NewsWhip.