Sen. Al Franken resigns amid allegations of sexual misconduct


Al Franken will depart the Senate within the coming weeks. 

Alex Wong, Getty Images

The open web is dropping one in all its strongest supporters in Congress as Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, introduced his plans to resign amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

Franken made the announcement Thursday after a number of girls had accused him of inappropriately touching them or forcibly making an attempt to kiss them. In an announcement on the Senate flooring, Franken apologized for the conduct however denied among the claims.

“Let me be clear, I may be resigning my seat but I am not giving up my voice,” Franken said. “I will continue to stand up for the things I believe in as a citizen and as an activist.”

Franken, who was a solid member on “Saturday Night Live” earlier than serving within the Senate for eight years, was one of the crucial high-profile and vocal members of Congress on key know-how and media points, and was notably a strong supporter for stricter net neutrality rules, which govern the idea that firms must deal with all web visitors equally.

His looming departure comes because the Federal Communications Commission is set to roll back the existing net neutrality rules within the identify of eradicating rules on firms to spur funding.

Franken was additionally one of many key opponents and critics of the development of continued consolidation, together with Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal.

He was one of many key figures within the Senate Intelligence Committee who grilled Facebook, Google and Twitter over Russia’s influence over the electionsand our political discourse. He was significantly heated over the businesses’ willingness to take Russian rubles for adverts, and may very well be counted on for a pointy jab.

“You can’t put together rubles with a political ad and say, ‘Hmm, those two data points spell something bad?'” he requested throughout a listening to in October.

Net neutrality

Franken’s contributions to the web neutrality struggle will stay one of many legacies of his Senate profession. He was one of many first leaders in Congress to push for stronger net neutrality regulation, publicly advocating for regulation in 2009 when he questioned then US Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Franken has described web neutrality as a very powerful free speech concern of our time.

He criticized the FCC’s first try at writing web neutrality regulation in 2010 calling the principles weak, as a result of they didn’t ban paid prioritization, which he believed would enable broadband firms to cost firms like Netflix a price to entry their prospects sooner than different rivals. In 2011, he and Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington, introduced legislation that might have put sturdy web neutrality protections into regulation.

A federal appeals courtroom eventually tossed out the FCC’s 2010 rules and instructed the company to return to drafting board. The end result was the 2015 guidelines, which banned broadband firms from providing paid prioritization and in addition reclassified broadband as a public utility, which gave the FCC larger authority to manage broadband networks.

The present FCC underneath Republican management will vote subsequent week to roll again these guidelines and can strip the FCC of its authority to manage the web. Franken has mentioned it is a mistake.

“The internet is really basic to the First Amendment,” he said in an interview in July with CNET. “And it doesn’t matter if it’s the FCC or Congress that provides those protections. It just needs to be protected.”

More just lately, Franken pushed the concept firms like Facebook and Google also needs to comply with comparable non-discrimination guidelines as web service suppliers. Currently, the FCC’s regulatory authority solely consists of community operators, however Franken has argued these web firms additionally act as monopolies and shouldn’t be allowed to dam or gradual entry to content material.

“As tech giants become a new kind of Internet gatekeeper, I believe the same basic principles of net neutrality should apply here: no one company should have the power to pick and choose which content reaches consumers and which doesn’t,” Franken wrote final month in an op-ed for The Guardian. “Facebook, Google, and Amazon—like ISPs—should be ‘neutral’ in their treatment of the flow of lawful information and commerce on their platforms.”

The motion goes on

Net neutrality supporters say they’re grateful for Franken’s dedication to an open web. But they are saying the struggle will proceed with out him.

“Senator Franken was an outspoken champion in the Senate for Net Neutrality, but obviously not the only one,” mentioned Matt Wood. “Dozens of lawmakers — and most importantly, millions of people — have stood up to protect crucial communications rights.”

Wood added that as vital as web freedoms and free speech are, the sexual harassment points needed to be handled.

“I don’t want to take any attention away from those issues for a second,” he mentioned. “But net neutrality never has been about one senator or even a handful of them, it’s a fundamental protection for everyone.”

Democrats have a powerful bench of web neutrality supporters on Capitol Hill keen to go to bat for the trigger, equivalent to Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, Sen. Ed Markey of Mass.,  and Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii. It’s additionally anticipated that Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton will appoint somebody to fill Franken’s seat who may even assist web neutrality regulation.

“Net neutrality is a core issue for Democrats,” mentioned Gigi Sohn, an advisor to the previous FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who drafted the 2015 guidelines. “We’re already seeing candidates for 2018 campaigning on the issue.”

Updated 12:09 p.m.: This story was initially revealed at 9 AM PT. It has been up to date with details about Sen. Franken’s assist of web neutrality and feedback from web neutrality proponents.

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