Ajit Pai Cancels Appearance at Tech Show Following Death Threats

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai / Getty
January 5, 2018

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai on Thursday canceled an upcoming appearance at a tech industry trade show after receiving death threats.

This marks the second known instance of Pai being forced to alter his schedule as a result of safely concerns; the first incident involved a bomb threat that forced the chairman to halt his vote to begin repealing the U.S. government’s net neutrality rules in December 2017, CNBC reported.

The nature of this specific threat ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was not disclosed, and a spokesperson for Pai said the FCC does "not comment on security measures or concerns."

A spokeswoman for the Consumer Technology Association declined to comment as well. The leader of the Las Vegas-based show, Gary Shapiro, said he was unaware of why Pai had canceled, but did mentioned he had been "subject to vicious and direct attacks and threats."

FCC sources told CNBC that federal law enforcement had intervened in the matter, and agency offices are expected to be briefed.

Pai, the FCC, and Republicans have faced a surge in security concerns that present serious challenges to their ability to do their jobs and discuss tech policy issues in the public eye without some sort of retaliation.

For several months, security concerns have been elevated after Pai's vote to repeal net neutrality rules, which critics viewed as a step towards destroying the internet, CNBC notes.

In late November, Pai reported protest signs showed up in his neigborhood that targeted his young children. "Dad murdered democracy," one sign read, and another featured Pai's children's names, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

Around the same time, a New York man was arrested for making a death threat against Rep. John Katko (R., N.Y.) and his family over the net neutrality debate. Katko, who has no role in the FCC agenda, received a threatening voicemail from a man who vowed to kill the congressman's family if he supported repealing net neutrality.

Pai commented at the time on the attempts to intimidate government officials with violent threats.

"This reminds me of another point, one that has been brought home to me in the past few days," Pai said. "This debate in our culture and our public policy on this and other issues need quality information and not hysteria, because hysteria brings us to unpleasant and dangerous places."

"We can disagree on policy," Pai added. "That is the American way. We shouldn't demonize, especially when all of us share the same goal of free and open internet."

Published under: FCC , Technology