Most taxpayers will be unfamiliar with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), but they might want to get up to speed for several reasons. The NTIA is “the Executive Branch agency that is principally responsible by law for advising the President on telecommunications and information policy issues.” The NTIA’s programs and policymaking focus is “largely on expanding broadband Internet access” and “ensuring that the Internet remains an engine for continued innovation and economic growth.” These goals are “critical to America’s competitiveness in the 21st century global economy and to addressing many of the nation’s most pressing needs, such as improving education, health care, and public safety.” What the NTIA has done to expand Internet access and competitiveness remains uncertain, but now some politicians want to expand its role.
Senator Ed Markey and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries have introduced the Hate Crime Reporting Act of 2014, a bill that would deploy the NTIA to “update a report on the use of telecommunications, including the Internet in the commission of hate crimes.” As this report noted, lawmakers want to monitor and control speech on radio, television and the Internet for “hate” and material that government snoops deem to be encouraging “violent acts.”
The Act does not specify what, exactly, constitutes “hate”, but federal bureaucrats will make the call. In current conditions, as this report notes, “hate” can be anything less than worshipful of the current administration. This troubles civil libertarians who call the legislation “dangerous” and charge that it is not up to politicians and the federal government to “define for a free people what speech is and is not, acceptable.”
The Act likely stands little chance of becoming law, but it shows that politicians are out to monitor and control speech. A similar offensive recently surfaced in the Federal Communications Commission. Both should be seen as the deployment of the machinery of government against critics, opponents, and the public at large.
The NTIA is “located within the U.S. Department of Commerce,” a mammoth bureaucracy that wields a budget of some $8 billion but is hardly an engine of economic growth.