In an effort to support his stance on repealing net neutrality, Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, created a video of himself performing the “Harlem Shake” and a series of other antics. A public records request attempted, for the second time, to obtain copies of any emails discussing the video, but the FCC has denied the request.
Pai created the video, along with news site the Daily Caller, right before the FCC voted to repeal the net neutrality rules in December 2017.
In the video, Pai highlights “7 things you can still do on the internet after net neutrality,” including shopping online, sharing food images on Instagram, and staying “part of your fave fandom.”
MuckRock, a news site focused on public records, requested the FCC provide copies of certain communications regarding the making of the video.
Their request was denied, meaning the FCC would not allow those communications to go public.
“Curious as to whose idea this was, I filed a FOIA for emails between The Daily Caller and the FCC, as well as any talking points regarding this huge PR coup,” said JPat Brown, the MuckRock executive editor. “Four months later, the FCC responded. The agency found two pages of emails but would be withholding them in their entirety under FOIA’s infamous b(5) exemption regarding deliberative process.”
According to a report by Ars Technica, the exemption used to deny the Freedom of Information Act request allows government agencies to withhold “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters that would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with an agency” providing that the communications were “generated before the adoption of an agency policy” and are reflective of “the give-and-take of the consultative process,” the FCC wrote in the denial letter provided to MuckRock.
The FCC also stated that “disclosure would foreseeably harm the staff’s ability to execute its functions by freely discussing relevant matters.”
Adam Marshall, an attorney for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said that the FCC’s decision “strikes me as a silly denial and overuse of Exemption 5,” adding that overuse of that specific exemption is common and that it has become known as the “withhold-it-because-you-want-to exemption.”
MuckRock does have the option to appeal the decision to the Office of General Counsel at the FCC or in the form of a lawsuit.