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."
….results on "Trump News" are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous. Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 28, 2018
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.