A Republican lawmaker provided a peculiar explanation Thursday in defense of his decision to recently back a controversial bill stripping privacy safeguards from internet users.
“Nobody’s got to use the internet,” Rep. F. James “Jim” Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin told constituents at a town hall event Thursday in response to a question involving his recent support of legislation targeting Obama-era privacy protection.
A majority of congressional lawmakers including Mr. Sensenbrenner voted last month in support of letting Internet Service Providers (ISPs) sell and share their customers’ browsing history, much to the chagrin of privacy proponents in favor of rules endorsed by the Obama administration requiring telecommunication carriers to first obtain their clients’ consent.
Addressing criticism from a constituent Thursday, the congressman indicated internet access is hardly compulsory.
“Well, you know… nobody’s got to use the internet,” Mr, Sensenbrenner answered back. “And the thing is that if you start regulating the internet like a utility, if we did that right at the beginning, we would have no internet.”
The congressman’s quip was quickly met with further criticism, as well as clarification from the lawmaker’s own Twitter account.
Following Thursday’s town hall, Twitter user Brad Bainum shared a video of the congressman’s response with the caption: “[Mr. Sensenbrenner] tells his constituents not to use the internet if they don’t like his vote to sell out their privacy to advertisers.”
Last month’s widely-watched Capitol Hill vote repealed measures that would have required ISP to ask permission before collecting customer data. The rules were authorized by the Federal Communications Commission last fall and were slated to take effect later this year upon garnering the signature of former President Obama, but his predecessor, President Trump, signed the repeal into law earlier this month.
Eighty-eight percent of Americans adults use the internet, according to recent Pew Research polling.
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