Culture Wars/Current Controversies

A Biden Appointee’s Troubling Views On The First Amendment

By Matt Taibbi

Columbia law professor Timothy Wu wonders if the First Amendment is “obsolete,” and believes in “returning the country to the kind of media environment that prevailed in the 1950s.”

When Columbia law professor Timothy Wu was appointed by Joe Biden to the National Economic Council a few weeks back, the press hailed it as great news for progressives. The author of The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age is known as a staunch advocate of antitrust enforcement, and Biden’s choice of him, along with the appointment of Lina Khan to the Federal Trade Commission, was widely seen as a signal that the new administration was assembling what Wired called an “antitrust all-star team.”

Big Tech critic Tim Wu joins Biden administration to work on competition policy,” boomed CNBC, while Marketwatch added, “Anti-Big Tech crusader reportedly poised to join Biden White House.” Chicago law professor Eric Posner’s piece for Project Syndicate was titled “Antitrust is Back in America.” Posner noted Wu’s appointment comes as Senator Amy Klobuchar has introduced regulatory legislation that ostensibly targets companies like Facebook and Google, which a House committee last year concluded have accrued “monopoly power.”

Wu’s appointment may presage tougher enforcement of tech firms. However, he has other passions that got less ink. Specifically, Wu — who introduced the concept of “net neutrality” and once explained it to Stephen Colbert on a roller coaster — is among the intellectual leaders of a growing movement in Democratic circles to scale back the First Amendment. He wrote an influential September, 2017 article called “Is the First Amendment Obsolete?” that argues traditional speech freedoms need to be rethought in the Internet/Trump era. He outlined the same ideas in a 2018 Aspen Ideas Festival speech:

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