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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai canceled his appearance at CES because of death threats

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai repealed his scheduled appearance at a major upcoming tech industry trade illustrate after receiving death threats, two agency sources told Recode on Thursday.

It’s the duplicate known incident in which Pai’s safety may have been at risk, after a bombshell threat abruptly forced the chairman to halt his controversial vote to junk the U.S. government’s net neutrality rules in December 2017.

For both Pai and the whole of the FCC, the uptick in protection concerns also presents a serious challenge to their ability to chat about critical tech policy issues in public view — without hazarding their safety or the safety of others in attendance.

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In this specimen, the exact nature of the threat, made in advance of Pai’s fireside chat at the 2018 Intercontinental CES, isn’t clear. A spokesman for Pai at the FCC, for its part, only said Thursday: “We do not comment on protection measures or concerns.”

But sources at the agency said that federal law enforcement had horn ined in the matter, and other FCC offices are expected to be briefed on the matter. The FBI did not immediately answer to emails seeking comment.

A spokeswoman for the Consumer Technology Association, which recommend b suggests on the annual Las Vegas-based trade show, also declined to comment. Earlier, even if, CTA’s leader, Gary Shapiro, told the publication Digital Trends that he did not be sure why Pai had canceled — but raised the fact that he had recently been “subject to atrocious and direct attacks and threats.”

For months, Pai has been hounded by his critics, only online, who view his vote to repeal net neutrality rules as tantamount to ruining the internet. Pai has lamented in speeches and tweets that he and his family have been feigned, attacked and threatened, in public as well as on Twitter, where Pai himself is occupied.

By the nature of the job, the chairmanship of the FCC is an especially public role, and threats to its leaders and commissioners aren’t absolutely new. In 2014, for example, protesters descended on the home of then-Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat, and debarred him from leaving his driveway. Then, too, net neutrality had been the issue at readily available.

In the most recent debate, though, tensions have been notably high, driven in no small part by broader frustrations among the clientele with the Trump administration writ large. If the death threats keep up, it is unclear how Pai and his fellow commissioners will proceed.

For now, Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and Republican Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr each outline to attend CES. So will Maureen Ohlhausen, the acting leader of their sister instrumentality, the Federal Trade Commission. Ohlhausen had been slated to appear alongside Pai at the annual Vegas affair.

By Tony Romm, Re/code.

CNBC’s parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Recode’s begetter Vox, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.

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