Trump administration claims anti-net neutrality ‘Harlem Shake’ skit emails exempt from Freedom of Information Act
Ajit Pai Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (Screen Capture)

Ahead of the epic rule unmaking net neutrality regulations, Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai coordinated with conservative site The Daily Caller to create a video skit about the topic.


The video shows the chairman doing a series of tasks he says can still continue in wake of the unmaking of net neutrality and even welcomes the PizzaGate conspiracy propagator. But when the public records site MuckRock asked for communications about the video, they were denied, Ars Technica said Friday.

"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," wrote MuckRock Executive Editor JPat Brown. "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."

The request asked for anything having to do with the coordination of the video with the Daily Caller as well as "talking points or promotional plans regarding the article." The FCC responded that it was only two pages of "documents."

The FCC claimed the two pages of internal emails "reflect deliberative discussion preliminary to release of the video and that they therefore fall within the scope of the deliberative process privilege," and "disclosure would foreseeably harm the staff's ability to execute its functions by freely discussing relevant matters."

It was one of two requests that were denied. The other was about Verizon using a puppet. In that case, the FCC denied it using the b(5) exemption.

It's possible all of the coordination was done over the phone or non-written communication. However, Adam Marshall, attorney for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press called it a "silly denial."

It "strikes me as a silly denial and an overuse of Exemption 5," he said. The claim of Overuse of Exemption 5 is common, Marshall said, noting that it is known as the "withhold-it-because-you-want-to exemption." Marshall also thought the FCC's denial of the Verizon puppet video FOIA video was an overuse of the deliberative process exemption.

Pai has said publicly that he is a fierce supporter of making the FCC as transparent as possible.