Regulation

Top Trump Economic Adviser Asserts Right to Regulate Buggy Whips, Google

Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, defended Trump's idea of regulating the search giant.

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Christoph Dernbach/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom

One of President Donald Trump's top economic advisers says he's exploring further regulation of Google.

Trump himself first broached the subject of regulating the internet giant. "Google search results for 'Trump News' shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD," he tweeted yesterday morning. He went on to accuse Google of censoring conservatives and called it a "very serious situation" that "will be addressed."

The administration hasn't actually offered any specifics regarding how it will address the situation. But in a Fox Business Network interview today, Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, defended the idea of regulating Google. His reasoning? The government regulated the 20th century economy, so it shouldn't let the Information Age get in the way of more rules.

"Well, first, there are independent agencies that look into this all the time," Hassett said on Mornings with Maria, referring to the idea of regulating Google. "And it's our job at the White House, really, to be looking at the 21st century economy, not the 20th century economy, right? Like, so we can't be just really good at buggy whips, we've got to think about what's going on right now."

But Hassett admitted he's not even sure whether Google is favoring "mainstream media" sources in its search results. "It could be that what's going on is that the mainstream media starts with more hits, and so they get higher rankings in Google, and so their discussion of the president goes to the top of the list," he said, "or it could be that it's something else."

Regardless, Hassett suggested that it's "right" for the government to look into regulating internet platforms. "The question is, that in a 21st century economy, you know, what is the right of the American government in this space? What should we be looking at?" he asked. "And I think that it's right for us to think about those things."

Hassett may have defended the idea of regulating Google, but it's not clear how the Trump administration would even go about it. When asked about Trump's tweets yesterday, chief White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow responded: "We're taking a look at it."

It doesn't sound like the administration has a concrete plan to regulate Google's search results. But even it does, such regulation would amount to an attack on press freedom, as Reason's Peter Suderman explained yesterday.

Trump's attacks on the press and various internet platforms are nothing new. But that doesn't make the idea of changing the laws in response to negative press coverage any less scary.

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  1. HE’S JUST LOOKING. GET OFF HIS BACK.

  2. Didn’t Obama actually try to limit access to his holiness and then lie about it by deny he was doing any such thing?

    1. Obama explicitly called for an internet kill switch.

      1. He also gave the FCC the power to regulate the internet, tax it at will, and ban providers or content via executive order.

  3. “The question is, that in a 21st century economy, you know, what is the right of the American government in this space?”

    “Right”?

    Governments don’t have rights – they have powers.

    And as per the 10th Amendment the powers of the federal government are limited to those that are specifically enumerated in the text of the Constitution.

    I don’t see any article in that document that delegates any power to the federal government to police the content of internet search engines.

    1. Apparently you don’t realize that the commerce clause and the necessary health and welfare clause nullify the rest of the Constitution.

      /Supreme Court

    2. Beat me to it.

  4. >>>”The question is, that in a 21st century economy, you know, what is the right of the American government in this space?

    We’re asking the wrong questions.

  5. Gillespie said it over the weekend (paraphrased from memory): “Trump’s supporters take him seriously but not literally. Trump’s detractors take him literally but not seriously”.

    I’d submit this whole post as an example of the latter.

    There’s an election in, what, five weeks? And Trump is complaining about how the news and its distribution is biased?

    Batten down the hatches, folks! He’s comin’ after the First Amendment!!!

    Actually, you’re carrying water for Trump whether you realize it or not.

    Just because Trump tells you to jump, you don’t have to obey him, Joe! You don’t have to go fetch for Trump just because he throws a stick.

    See the stick! Go get the stick! Go get it boy!

    *Arf!*

    1. When you’re the media, you carry water for the President. It’s what you do.

      Trump tweeting about censoring Google because his ego doesn’t like the results is at least a change of pace from example after example of all the skulduggery ‘The Most Transparent Administration In History’ that the media ‘covered’.

    2. “Just because Trump tells you to jump, you don’t have to obey him, Joe!”

      But they do. They can’t help themselves.

  6. Although the thrust of your post is sound, you may be underestimating the coalition of forces who want to regulate big-tech. Support for the same is not cabined to the Donald and portions of his core supporters.

    1. Those forces likely include Google, Faceboook, Amazon, and Apple most likely, since once they are given the cover of government, they will be considered TBTF when the next upstart challenges their dominance.

  7. Here is the thing: when Facebook/twitter/youtube were simply platforms that stuff was put on, they could say “hey, we’re like the phone company or the internet, we aren’t responsible for the content” but if they are going to shut down “offensive” stuff in minutes like they are doing, then they are opening themselves up to charges of libel, defamation, and threats. So if some whackjob threatens to kill the kids of NRA pres or such, they could now be liable for it.
    On the other hand, if they go much further in the direction of openly shutting down Republican political candidates and commentators, as they are, their bias could be construed as a political contribution to the democrats, subject to financial limits, disclosure, the whole deal. It appears that Facebook actually actively promoted Clinton, which would fall under this category (already). A TV station can’t give free airtime to a candidate (though they sneak it in as commentary).
    In either case, there is a real downside to their current direction. In addition, they are alienating half their customers. I can’t imagine being so wealthy that a company can decide to dump half their customers and think it is a smart move financially.

  8. Internet companies were given a special legal exemption from usual publishing law, with the legal privileges of publishers to control content but only the liability of a common carrier that must take all comers.

    That’s the current *regulation* that Reason is defending – a crony capitalism exemption from the laws other publishers live with.

  9. Say what? Google publishes buggy whips?

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