WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee voted on Wednesday to approve the nomination of a senior Trump administration official involved in an effort to seek new social media regulations to a seat on the Federal Communications Commission.
Nathan Simington, a Commerce Department official, was approved on a 14-12 vote.
President Donald Trump has railed against social media companies and continued to demand the repeal of a key social media protection known as Section 230 that is part of a 1996 law.
Section 230 protects tech companies from liability over content posted by users. It has been under attack from Trump and Republican lawmakers, who have criticized internet platforms’ content moderation decisions and accused them of stifling conservative voices.
It is not clear when the full U.S. Senate may take up the nomination for the five-year term. If approved, the FCC could initially be deadlocked 2-2 when President-elect Joe Biden takes office next month.
Trump in May directed the Commerce Department to file a petition with the FCC seeking to curb legal protections for social media companies. Simington acknowledged at his confirmation hearing that he was involved in drafting the petition.
Trump tapped Simington after abruptly pulling his nomination of Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly for a new term in August after O’Rielly questioned whether the FCC had authority to issue new social media regulations limiting Section 230 protections.
Trump threatened on Tuesday night to veto the National Defense Authorization Act unless Congress agreed to scrap Section 230.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said this week he will step down on Jan. 20, when Biden will be inaugurated. On Oct. 15 Pai said he would move to set new rules to define protections for social media firms under Section 230, but he has not issued any formal proposal to date.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler)