Technology policy

Josh Hawley Says Libertarians Who Defend Tech Are Enamored with Power. He Should Look in the Mirror.

The populist senator's campaign against social media addiction is unscientific and anti-freedom.

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Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) had an eventful Thursday, meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for a "frank conversation."

"[I] challenged him to do two things to show FB is serious about bias, privacy & competition," wrote Hawley on Twitter. "1) Sell WhatsApp & Instagram 2) Submit to independent, third-party audit on censorship. He said no to both."

Well, that escalated quickly.

It is discouraging that an ostensible conservative would make it his personal crusade to destroy the Big Tech boogeyman by ceaselessly threatening government intervention. But this is the path Hawley has chosen. Oddly, he thinks libertarians should be applauding him for it.

"I don't understand why those who call themselves libertarians are so enamored with this incredible concentration of power in the hands of a few," he told The Hill's Saagar Enjeti in a recent interview. "I thought the whole libertarian tradition was about standing up to power. It was about checking concentrated power on behalf of the people."

Hawley clearly knows enough about libertarianism to cynically distort the language of freedom in service of his authoritarian populist designs. As he is likely aware, the libertarian tradition is about standing up to the most dangerous concentration of power: the one that results from government intervention and is maintained by the threat of government force. Libertarianism is against the efforts of central planners in Washington, D.C., who think they know better than individuals what kind of products they should buy and what kind of media they should consume. In effect, libertarianism means opposing Josh Hawley.

If anyone still doubts that the senator from Missouri wants to bend the tech companies to his will and dictate to the rest of us the terms under which we will use their services, the interview with Enjeti should remove all suspicion. Hawley spoke positively about banning or limiting specific features of tech products that he has arbitrarily determined are harmful for children. Echoing the Bernie Sanders campaign and the Democratic Socialists of America, he criticized Uber and Amazon for not paying their workers enough. He accused tech companies of "exploiting" customers who voluntarily use their products.

"The whole business model is built on exploitation of consumers, of families, of individuals, of children in many cases," he said.

Again, Hawley is using libertarian language for anti-libertarian ends. He praises marketplace competition—something libertarians favor—but speaks as if it should be Google's job to produce a crappier product for consumers so that some other search engine gets a chance at stardom.

"We need competition in that market," he said. "We're seeing a really troubling pattern that these monopoly size entities, Google, Facebook, Amazon, are using their tremendous market power to favor their own businesses, favor their own products, and to disfavor competitors. Who loses in that is the American people, as well as our privacy, as well as our children."

The crusaders of the nanny state have long used that phrase—"our children"—to limit all sorts of freedoms for people of all ages. The Trump administration in D.C. and Democratic governors in Michigan and New York are currently trying to prevent adults from buying e-cigarettes out of a misguided notion that there is some vaping epidemic on teenagers. Vaping is probably significantly safer than traditional tobacco products, but never mind: The government must drive addicts back to their traditional cigarettes, or to black market vaping products. Why? For the children, naturally.

Similarly, Hawley thinks the safety of children requires the government to limit everyone else's ability to use the internet on their own terms. Here's what he had to say about social media:

Look at the track record Silicon Valley has given us. I refer to in particular social media, the pathologies associated with social media in the last decade or so: the data that comes to us about the correlation between social media usage and teenage suicide and teenage depression and teenage loneliness. We need more information, it's still early days, but what we're seeing so far is very very worrisome. The business model is to get us to spend as much time online as possible, take as much information from us as they can without telling us, and then sell it without our consent or otherwise profit from it. That whole business model is built on exploitation of consumers, of families, of individuals, of children in many cases.

But the science of screen addiction is far from settled. A recent study, for instance, found that teens who spent more time on their phones were no worse off than other kids. Some of them were happier, in fact. This finding makes sense when one considers what teens are actually doing on their phones: staying in touch with friends. It's no wonder this actually contributes to their happiness.

Hawley framed his anti-tech screed as a plea for parents to have more options.

"Parents ought to be in control of raising their children, not Big Tech," he said. "Parents ought to have tools of support. If I am comfortable with my kids online, that's your choice, but it shouldn't be Big Tech's choice. Power of choice should be in the hands of the family."

But if parents want more of these kinds of choices, the companies will provide them. Hawley doesn't need to force Facebook to provide features if these features are actually popular with consumers. What Hawley is really saying is that he knows better than the kids, better than their parents, and better than Mark Zuckerberg what people want and should have. It is not libertarians who are enamored with centralized power—it's Hawley himself.

 

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  1. Well, Robby, why don’t you just stay out of discussions between libertarians and conservatives, given that you don’t understand either political view?

    1. just as Cindy explained I am inspired that some people can get paid $7036 in four weeks on the internet .
      hop over to this site >> works55.com

  2. To be sure, Hawley is a politician and this is what politicians do. You can’t blame Hawley for what he’s doing any more than you can blame a scorpion for stinging, a snake for biting or a defective colostomy bag for dribbling shit all over the place. It’s just what they do, don’t expect anything different.

    1. Still, it’s a pretty clear example of someone who is completely ignorant of libertarian philosophy yet chooses to use the word anyhow.

    2. I guess the same applies to Sanders, Warren, AOC, and the rest?

      Seriously, that’s not an excuse. You can’t be surprised that that’s what he does. But you can absolutely blame him. It’s still tyrannical.

    3. “Shoot Hawley, our Libertarian Warrior for the Babies” is what his Republican buddies call him. Herbert Hoover’s shoot-first War on Beer is “Ordered Liberty,” and Richard Nixon raining bombs on women and children is “Peace.” The Party has its own Televangelist Newspeak, unvexed by the evil influence of the Bill of Rights.

  3. If I am comfortable with my kids online, that’s your choice, but it shouldn’t be Big Tech’s choice.

    Well, shitstain, nobody from Google or Facebook has shown up with a gun yet to force anyone in my family to use their products.

    1. Given their control over the internet, Google will have way more of a voice than you’ll like over what you can or cannot see.

      But they’re a private corporation, so that’s cool.

      Nothing can be BAD about having a few incestuous firms running the internet. It’s the ULTIMATE freedom!

      1. Try duck duck go.

        They don’t track any of your data or history and I think it is a better search engine.

        1. In my experience it’s a better search engine for things where google wants to dictate what you end up thinking. It’s a worse search engine for things where google doesn’t care if you find what you’re looking for, instead of what they want you to find.

          However, I’ll grant that first category of searches is perpetually growing.

  4. It’s unfortunate that we’re losing our way on this discussion– and even some libertarians are embracing an authoritarian response to this problem. And to those who defend big tech and think it’s “not a problem”, they too are wrong. There is a problem. It is possible to exist in both places: Recognizing that Big Tech is a cesspool of SJW groupthink intent wielding its enormous power to erase any contrarian opinions from the public sphere, and being against (or at minimum, highly skeptical of) any Big Government intrusion into the inner workings of these companies.

    I believe that the answer is probably through civil litigation, or possibly YoutuberLaw’s approach of an FTC complaint regarding collusion.

    The fact of the matter is these companies need to be taken to task (preferably through civil actions) over how they treat their own TOS as meaningless, nebulous “agreements” that operate in one direction only.

    1. Actually, I think the right approach is somewhat deeper. Extremely burdensome laws like Sarbanes-Oxley make it more difficult to go public (and hence more attractive to be bought out by large public firms). I think there is a good chance that these restrictions on the financial markets majorly help create oligopolies. Add to this the fact that the SEC has effectively pocket-vetoed decentralized fundraising and ICOs, and you create a system with very big barriers to entry. Let’s try removing the barriers first.

      1. Interesting way of looking at it. You might find my link below on WeWork’s Ponzi Scheme structure.

      2. I agree, not just in this policy area, but as a general process. When you see maloperation—an oligopoly, slow innovation, rising costs—look first at existing government policies , and build clear and compelling cases for wholesale repeals.

  5. Says the Silicon Valley brain slug. Please explain how the same human beings who can’t be trusted when in government jobs somehow magically turn into beneficial fairy godmothers when in business jobs.

    1. They’re not and one would be foolish to think that. The difference is, in a functioning market, we can not buy their products.

      1. And they can go out of business and piss off investors.

        When was the last time any government went out of business? I sure hope we don’t get that bad here.

        1. USSR 1991. That was easy.

        2. Wasn’t there a National Socialist Staat? I vaguely recall a Union of Soviet Socialist something-or-other over in the People’s States of Europe. And what about the City of Hiroshima? Dresden? Hamburg? Sometimes the name changes in bankruptcy, other times the assets or radioactive ashes get different management. But the one thing history shows pretty clearly is that folks who vote for the initiation of force get what they asked for, and those who fail to vote against it get what they deserve.

    2. That’s easy. Businesses don’t have the FBI, DEA, ICE, IRS, ATF, local police and a military to force me to use their products. They have to rely on providing me something I value in exchange for something they value.

      1. They value your complete obeisance.

      2. They do if they manage to throw the election to the people who agree with them about how those agencies should be deployed.

        Which IS exactly what they’re trying to do right now.

    3. Its not that concentrating power in a few tech companies is a good thing, its that ceding an even greater amount of power to the government is not a good solution

      1. Yeah, exactly. Do the people crying “deep state” really think an authoritarian bureaucracy empowered to regulate the internet will defend conservatives? LOL

        1. It’s definitely disappointing to see people getting behind this because they think they’ll be in charge forever.

          1. For me, it’s not that I will be in control. It’s that I don’t see the government being worse than Big Tech. I don’t see it getting worse if they have oversight than it is, right now, when they do not.

            At bare minimum, government is restricted in how much they can suppress speech.

            1. Hell, at least the govt can be sued for censorship…

            2. It’s that I don’t see the government being worse than Big Tech.

              Then you’re a fool.

              1. Worse than a fool! A US president can order a drone missile to be fired at an American he doesn’t like. A couple years later, he can order the drone strike murder of that American’s son and the son’s buddies. The consequence? A Peace Prize and the closet thing to an anointed American Saint in the eyes of many.

                Government can also legally seize your money and put you in a cage to be raped. That happens every single day and nobody bats an eye.

                Meanwhile, if Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t like you, he can kick you off Facebook.

                How can anyone not see government being infinitely worse than Big Tech?

  6. And Sen Hawley if you look at the track record the Federal government has given us perhaps you will understand our reticence in ceding more authority to you.

  7. >>”The whole business model is built on exploitation of consumers, of families, of individuals, of children in many cases”

    business model, or political model?

  8. Wouldn’t just removing section 230 be the libertarian thing to do? It’s giving platforms an exception that no one else has. As it now stands it allows the owners of the platforms and just about anyone to manipulate the public. I’m all for that, but to have those that deliver it to everyone free from liability seems foolish. If I was a foreign government I could have people stationed in the US manipulating elections. I could have a woman in the US #metoo any politician I don’t like and you know the online mob will carry it right to the press. It’s too easy. Hell, as a platform I can do that to ensure the politician that’s in my pocket wins.

    1. It doesn’t give them an exception that no one else has, it ensure that first amendment protections are explicitly extended to the platforms.

      You mention a woman #MeTooing a politician, how does that rely on Section 230? She could go straight to the press who we all acknowledge are protected by the 1st amendment.

      You talk about how platforms manipulate information, but how is that different from a newspaper or cable news channel choosing what stories to push and what to bury? And again, no one questions that they are protected

      1. Is Facebook a Publisher?

        The thing is, businesses evolve and Facebook (at least) wants it both ways.

        I’d personally like to know what exactly it is that Facebook publishes.

      2. “You mention a woman #MeTooing a politician, how does that rely on Section 230? She could go straight to the press who we all acknowledge are protected by the 1st amendment. ”

        I can anonymously #metoo someone. I can also post a photo of the politician taking a shit anonymously. In fact, I can do so much using their platform and they’ll never trace it back to me. The 230 protections enable this behavior and amplify it. There really isn’t an incentive to take it down or prevent it. To answer your question about newspapers or cable, should they defame someone they can be held liable. CDA 230 allows us to circumvent an entire process by having the media factually cover tweets about those being accused of sexual assault. By using this process they don’t even have to take the time to verify the existence of the people that made the tweets. They’re just reporting on tweets. Jack Dorsey, should he want to, can post these things himself using a VPN and be entirely free from liability. He has a vested interest to do this as well.

        I’m not saying to make any new laws. I’m not even calling to hinder any freedoms. If I make a website and post on it then I am liable. The paper trail from the purchase of the domain and the hosting makes it easier. CDA 230 allows me to make a website, post whatever I want, and claim it is the users. I don’t even have to prove it because laws don’t require me to retain any data. CDA 230 has massive holes that prevents me from doing anything should any damage happen to me.

        “Would you also remove gun manufacturers liability protection for when their products are used by others for nefarious purposes?”

        If their products are used for libel then you bet. If the manufacturers use their weapon to kill someone? Sure. The difference is that a tech company can prevent people from doing something with their product by screening all posts. A gun company can’t. When you buy a gun it is out of their hands. Twitter and Facebook aren’t. Also, there isn’t a part of the constitution saying that the congress shall make no law freeing a tech platform from liability so there is that as well. It could really shut Hawley up on this matter and make him resign.

        If you want to post on the internet then go ahead. Make your own website and use your 1st amendment right. If what you host causes me damages I shouldn’t be told I can’t sue you. By forbidding that we open ourselves up to hell.
        Like having your kids photographed in their bathing suits at the beach on a website for perverts to drool over. Can even post their addresses. 100% legal and if by some chance it isn’t, well, CDA 230 protects the site owner.

        I don’t have all the answers. Not even saying that I have 1 answer. I see a lot of problems though. It all comes back to that. 230 is too easy for me to abuse. It enables potentially illegal behavior and completely shields me from any liability. In fact, it is a workaround for liability.

      3. “it ensure that first amendment protections are explicitly extended to the platforms.”
        No it doesn’t. If I call someone a filthy whore with saggy boobies I can get banned. 1st amendment, yo. Go on twitter and call a tranny a dude. See what happens.

        What 230 does is remove liability for what is posted on their platforms. It has nothing at all to do with free speech because a private company isn’t forced to (nor should be forced to) allow free speech. They’re private.

        230 allows me to use someone else’s property to post your name, social security number, and date of birth and the end result is that you can’t do anything except spend the next decade trying to prove that you didn’t buy a 2018 Honda Civic and take out 20 different credit cards.

    2. Would you also remove gun manufacturers liability protection for when their products are used by others for nefarious purposes?

  9. Here’s video of Biden bragging about threatening defunding Ukraine unless they
    stop an investigation of a company where his ne’er do well son sits on the board.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCF9My1v

    Oops! There’s no video of Biden bragging about threatening defunding Ukraine unless they stop an investigation of a company where his ne’er do well son sits on the board.
    Thank you You Tube for making my viewing choices so easy.

  10. Why, oh why, didn’t they just keep McCaskill as their Senator? Wouldn’t a corporate shill be better than a wannabe fascist?

    1. As a Missouri voter, I can assure you that a no for McCaskill was necessary. A yes for Hawley looked good in the primaries, then rapidly evaporated as the general election approached. Genuinely good choices in general elections are restricted to about 10% of House districts. The candidates who, in office, earn Conservative Review LIberty Scores of at least 80%. https://www.conservativereview.com/scorecard/

  11. It’s largely a government created problem, so of course government is going to be involved in any solution.

    Acting like the case is anything other is not credible.

  12. Hawley should know. Sen. Josh Hawley wants men with guns to force bitches to squeeze out pups in response to pro-choice “extremism.” Just as work is the time derivative of force in the strict physical sense, power it the time derivative of the deadly force wielded by politicians and their armed minions. Its dimensions are dead people, megadeaths in international contexts. In Republican Party doublethink, men with guns pointed at women and physicians is “pro-life,” the 14th Amendment says All ova fertilized, and the “free exercise” in the First Amendment means “coerced exercise.” That’s the law as seen by real lawmakers, not sissy libertarians.

  13. I don’t understand why those who call themselves libertarians are so enamored with this incredible concentration of power in the hands of a few

    It wasn’t created by force.

    I thought the whole libertarian tradition was about standing up to power. It was about checking concentrated power on behalf of the people.

    How socialist of you.

    1. Look at what happened to Gab, though; It’s now being maintained by force. (If what happened to Gab doesn’t meet your definition of “force”, you definition is dangerously narrow.)

      And it’s aspiring to get control of force, by dictating who wins the next election. At which time Panopticon surveillance and an army will be under the control of the same people.

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