Ajit Pai and the Federal Uncommunications Commission

FCC Chief Won't Release Records On Satirical Video

Before he engineered a successful effort to undo net neutrality and give corporate behemoths like Verizon and Comcast new power to control your access to news and information online, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai made a video poking fun at people who thought that wasn’t such a good idea.

The 103-second video featured Pai in a Santa suit, twirling a fidget spinner, and doing a riff – light saber in hand – on the internet’s popular “Harlem Shake” videos. The idea was to reassure people that the demise of net neutrality rules would not change their access to the things they like on the net.

It was misleading – at best – and it didn’t go over well. When the pro-Trump website The Daily Caller posted the video on You Tube, 270,000 users gave it a thumbs-down; that was more than 26 times as many as liked it. The FCC repealed the net neutrality protections the day after the video was posted, a decision that is being challenged in court.

Perhaps understandably, Pai now wants everyone to forget the whole thing. This week and with no explanation, the commission turned down a Freedom of Information Act request for emails and other FCC records relating to how the video was conceived and produced.

“The very basic fact that they’re unwilling to even disclose whether anybody had objections to this internally, or if they were all aboard, is the larger problem,” said J. Pat Brown, the executive editor of Muckrock, an online watchdog group that filed the FOIA request. “You are entitled to answers out of your government.”

Pai’s closed-door policy is particularly striking given his promises when taking the helm at the FCC last year that he would promote transparency at the agency. “One of my priorities as chairman… will be to make the agency’s operations more transparent,” he wrote in an official statement released Feb. 2, 2017. “I want us to do a better job of communicating with those we are here to serve.”

You still have some work to do in that department, Mr. Pai.