The regulator who worked to keep online political speech free of federal control is planning to step down this year, saying that he believes the Internet "is a little bit freer and a little bit safer" than when he assumed his position.
"I know that I am looking to depart the agency sometime this year," Federal Election Commissioner Lee Goodman said in an interview with The Hill. "I would expect a new cast of at least four commissioners, probably this year."
Goodman, a Republican who joined the agency in 2013, developed a reputation for speaking up when his Democratic colleagues voted to crack down on the Internet and the press. Those included efforts to regulate websites like Twitter, Facebook, and the Drudge Report, and one attempt to punish Fox News over the criteria it used for including candidates in a Republican presidential debate.
Goodman said he believes the threat has subsided. This was due in part to President Trump's election as well as the fact that one of his Democratic colleagues, Commissioner Ann Ravel, stepped down at the end of February.
"I think today the Internet is a little bit freer and a little bit safer now that Commissioner Ravel has left the Federal Election Commission," Goodman remarked to the Hill.
Ravel came under fire during her tenure for several campaign reform proposals including her attempts to regulate online speech. She insisted that FEC enforcement was in "crisis" but was notably absent from meetings in the months before her resignation.
Goodman called Ravel's past attempts "censorial." Goodman added that he is optimistic speech on the Internet will remain free for the foreseeable future, citing his own agency as well as Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court.
"I think we all support a very free Internet, and I think that's going to be a very significant change in the regulatory state under this president," he said.
"Hopefully with a new set of commissioners the debate over freedom on the Internet will be reset and we can get back to recognizing the virtuous effects of the Internet for civic engagement and free speech by ordinary citizens," the commissioner said.
Ravel responded to Goodman's characterization of the issue in a message on Twitter late Tuesday, claiming that he was trying to "rile trolls."