- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 3, 2016

Internet providers should be obligated to prevent bogus news article from spreading online, the vice chair of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team said Friday.

Recent discussions involving the impact of fake-news websites on the recent White House race prompted Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, to call on internet service providers (ISPs) to take matters into their own hands.

“If anyone is putting fake news out there, the ISPs have the obligation to in some way get that off the web,” Ms. Blackburn told CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer during an appearance Friday on the network’s “Situation Room” program.

“And maybe it’s time for these information systems to look to have some type of news editor that is doing some vetting on that — whether it is the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians or whomever. You do not want that out there because it is fake news. It is not something that is going to be correct and it’s going to end up being refuted. But it takes time, effort and energy to do that. And trying to sway and to misinform is completely inappropriate and in my opinion unethical,” she said.

The congresswoman’s remarks came in response to a question from Mr. Blitzer concerning renewed interest in the Senate this week over the Russian government’s alleged attempt to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential race. While the White House previously concluded that the Kremlin had directed cyberattacks and email leaks suffered by the Democratic Party during the run-up to the Nov. 8 election, independent reports released recently have speculated that Russia may have purposely helped flood the web with political disinformation in the form of bogus news articles with the intent of electing Mr. Trump president.

“These Russian actions are unprecedented in our post-Cold War relationship and have rightfully drawn bipartisan condemnation and prompted bipartisan calls for Congressional hearings. The seriousness of Russia’s behavior and its relevance to the Foreign Relations Committee merit a full committee hearing on this issue, perhaps supplemented by a classified briefing,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat, wrote in a letter to the panel’s leadership Thursday.

A day before she suggested that ISPs be required to police the internet for bogus content, Ms. Blackburn tweeted that “Americans are sick of being overregulated by bloated government agencies.” Previously she opposed President Barack Obama’s efforts to regulate internet access through net neutrality rules adopted by the FCC in 2015. 

Prior to being elected president, Mr. Trump proposed “closing” portions of the internet in order to curb the online recruitment efforts of terror groups like the Islamic State.

“We’ve got to maybe do something with the internet. We’re losing a lot of people because of the internet. We have to see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening,” Mr. Trump said in December 2015. “We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that internet up in some ways,” he continued. “Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people.”

Earlier this week, a decades-old organization devoted to digitally preserving the web said it planned to keep a copy of its archives in Canada for safekeeping as a result of Mr. Trump being elected.

“On November 9th in America, we woke up to a new administration promising radical change. It was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change,” Internet Archives founder Brewster Kahle said Tuesday.

“For us, it means keeping our cultural materials safe, private and perpetually accessible. It means preparing for a Web that may face greater restrictions,” he added. “It means serving patrons in a world in which government surveillance is not going away; indeed it looks like it will increase.”

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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