Gigi Sohn, a renowned digital rights advocate and President Joe Biden’s pick to fill the final seat on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is facing a new set of attacks from the right.
Sohn was nominated to the FCC in 2021 but has yet to receive a vote after senators pushed back on her nomination amid questions of bias against conservatives. Sohn was nominated to the FCC again this year, and now conservatives have a whole new set of talking points using the same old playbook.
Last week, the Daily Mail published an “exclusive” about Sohn’s time on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an internet rights nonprofit. In the article, the Daily Mail tried to expose Sohn’s involvement on the EFF board when the organization opposed the SESTA/FOSTA bills, which effectively criminalized platforms that hosted sex workers or sexual content under the guise of protecting victims of sex trafficking.
Sohn’s position with the EFF has long been widely known.
In 2020, while Sohn was still on the board of EFF, it honored a dominatrix, Mistress Blunt, with a “Pioneer Award.” The organization also has frequently collaborated with her on various internet rights work, according to the Daily Mail.
Fox News picked up the Daily Mail’s work story this week and published its own report about the links between Sohn, EFF, and SESTA/FOSTA.
The Daily Mail and Fox, two prominent conservative publications, have attempted to use salacious headlines to sink Sohn’s nomination.
“Biden’s FCC nominee Gigi Sohn sits on board of nonprofit that wants to uphold online sex work and that honored an OnlyFans dominatrix who boasts about urinating on faces,” read the Daily Mail’s piece.
“Biden’s FCC nominee sits on board of group that opposes anti-sex trafficking efforts,” wrote Fox. Both articles have attempted to smear the EFF, one of the most prominent digital rights groups in America.
Preston Padden, a communications policy consultant, said in a letter to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation that the Senate is in danger of “falling victim to the worst, and most cynical and baseless smear campaign ever waged against a nominee to serve on the FCC.”
“Ms. Sohn’s opponents have planted article after article alleging that she is against Native Americans, against Hispanics, against rural communities, against police and that she is connected with illicit sex workers,” the letter said. “It’s all rubbish. A total of 375 organizations, companies, elected officials, and local governments, including numerous Tribes, Hispanic organizations, and public safety officials have voiced their support for Ms. Sohn’s nomination.”
But some are running with it nevertheless, in the wake of the two reports, the National Republican Senate Committee called on several centrist Democrats, all of whom are facing re-election in 2024, to reject Sohn.
“Despite Sohn’s disturbing history, Senate Democrats like Jon Tester, Sherrod Brown, and Joe Manchin have remained silent on whether they will back her. Tester even voted to advance her nomination in 2022. Will Jon Tester, Sherrod Brown, and Joe Manchin do the right thing and oppose Gigi Sohn?,” it wrote, mirroring the influence campaign in 2022 against vulnerable Democrats like Sen Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.) that helped prevent a vote on Sohn to the FCC.
Sohn has previously faced criticism for her bias against Fox News and faced a six-figure ad campaign from a Democratic PAC that said Sohn was the “wrong choice for the FCC and rural America.”
Despite Democrats holding a slightly better Senate edge this time again, the effective playbook is already being rolled out.