WSJ Rightly Attacks Senator Josh Hawley's 'Nannyish' Laws Regarding The Internet

from the good-to-see dept

Just days after publishing yet more anti-internet nonsense, the Wall Street Journal, at least, allowed Andy Kessler to publish an excellent opinion piece calling our Senator Josh Hawley’s ridiculous “big government” approach to regulating internet companies.

Mr. Hawley?s new bill has all the worst instincts of the regulatory state?a disappointing achievement coming from a Republican. It would remove the autoplay feature from YouTube, end infinite scrolling on Twitter and Facebook feeds, limit scrolling time to three-minute sessions, set default limits on the use of platforms to 30 minutes a day, and outlaw Snapchat streaks (rewards for consecutive days of contact with friends) and most ?gamification? (badges, rewards) for any online service. These diktats are the opposite of market freedom.

The bill?s final kicker is a proposed triennial Federal Trade Commission report to Congress describing how internet companies ?interfere with free choices of individuals? by ?exploiting human psychology and brain physiology.? In other words, Mr. Hawley wants to restrict freedom because it interferes with free choice. Or something like that. Cut to a video of Orwell rolling over in his grave (though it won?t autoplay). OK, to be fair, Skopos Labs gives the bill a measly 3% chance of being enacted. But that doesn?t make it any less . . . cuckoo.

Kessler’s piece also calls out Hawley’s laughable claim that there is no innovation at all in social media.

This antitech inclination hasn?t always defined Mr. Hawley?s persona. As attorney general he said, ?American workers and American entrepreneurs can compete with anybody, anywhere if our government will stop making America a cost-prohibitive place to do business.? Hear, hear. When he won his Senate seat last year he ran mostly as a conventional conservative.

But even then he already had his enemies marked. His first Senate speech lamented the ?cold and judgmental world of social media,? and things kind of went downhill from there.

Hawley, of course, has been grandstanding a lot lately about how the “cosmopolitan elite” are the problem. He conveniently leaves out the fact that he attended Stanford and Yale Law School, clerked for the Supreme Court, worked at a massive “cosmopolitan” law firm (based in DC and London), Hogan Lovells, and then became Attorney General for Missouri before becoming Senator. Hawley is about as “cosmopolitan” a Senator as you can find. But apparently, in grandstanding to what he seems to believe is a very, very gullible base, he wants to convince them that he’s standing up to the “elites” and that the only innovation that matters is innovation that comes from “the Heartland” or some such nonsense. As Kessler notes, cynically, Hawley’s act is all for show:

Whether that worry is real or not doesn?t matter; condemning tech is a form of pretend populism. Mr. Hawley is taking an Elizabeth Warren-esque ?I have a plan for that? approach, which is more about grabbing headlines than actually passing laws.

Yet the claim that big tech companies don?t deliver innovation is false. We can stream TV shows on subways, enjoy same-day package delivery, have a lady in our phones help us to avoid traffic, sort photos automatically by date, location and faces, and get instant answers to any question in our kitchens from something that looks like a hockey puck. Yeah, but what have you done for me lately?

Kessler notes that Hawley’s plans would completely destroy innovation online.

Mr. Hawley?s style of heavy-handed regulation is what killed Detroit, distracted phone companies, inflated health-care costs, and wrecked education. Don?t let it kneecap the internet. It won?t be long before the senator announces, ?If you like your social media, you can keep your social media.?

Given the willingness of the WSJ to publish anti-internet nonsense of late, it’s nice to see Kessler able to get at least something sensible through.

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Comments on “WSJ Rightly Attacks Senator Josh Hawley's 'Nannyish' Laws Regarding The Internet”

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bt says:

Yes, Hawley, another cosmopolitan playing the rubes back home.

Rather like Paul Ryan, who just could not wait to get back to good old Wisconsin after ‘retiring’ from his government job after a lifetime of living on a government paycheck, who has just lately moved his family to a new house near Washington DC. It must be so terrible for the Ryan’s being away from the good people in the heartland and now living among the very terrible cosmopolitans on the east coast, so near to the awful, dark machinery of the freedom-sucking federal government so that Paul can line his pockets with cash doing the hard and noble work of influence peddling to all of his dear friends.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Doing the research into the Nazi Dog Whistles it is less hypocrital and more horrible and horrifying as a coded reference to "Jews" based on a long line of stupid anti-Semetic tropes that amount to the ruling class scapegoating them for their own complete mismanagement and irresponsibility, persecuting and exiling them and then accusing them of being ‘rootless’ and ‘disloyal’.

As is normal for bigots it is just fractal awfulness from them.

aerinai (profile) says:

Stop "Politician said something for attention" Stories....

I get that Hawley is dangerous the same way Trump is dangerous. But keeping his name in the news because ‘some dumb person said something dumb’ is the same reason we now have President Trump…. They do these stupid outbursts for attention and we are all too eager to give it to them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Stop "Politician said something for attention" Stories....

They do these stupid outbursts for attention and we are all too eager to give it to them.

I disagree. Lest you forget, these senators have been given the power to create legislation that can and will affect every American citizen, most of whom, not living in Missouri, never even voted for him.

So I am very much for pointing out each and every time an idiot congress person makes an idiotic statement as it brings that much more attention to the fact that we have idiots running our government and they should be voted out.

Anonymous Coward says:

It seems america is competing with the eu and the uk to pass laws which will
reduce free speech ,pass laws which make no sense and encourage
social media companys to over block content at a the time when they are experimenting with how to moderate content or posts by users .
They should be free to block content which may be illegal or racist or
insulting to minoritys or people of various races or religions
and to ban users who are bad actors .
or to simply block content which they deem to be disturbing racist
or obscene .

Anonymous Coward says:

the whole idea is remove market freedom, at least for the general public! when is it going to dawn on people that this presidency is concerned with ensuring that as many businesses as possible make as much money as possible in as short a time as possible and does so for as long as possible, all the while, removing as much freedom and privacy as possible from ordinary people and giving as many excuses as possible to law enforcement to arrest as many as possible as well for doing nothing except what the Constitution is supposed to protect!! and dont forget, the DoJ is doing as much as it can, as quick as possible to throw the Constitution under as many buses as possible, as quick as possible!

Anonymous Coward says:

To play the devil’s advocate, pure market freedom has never been a thing in the U.S. and it’s disingenuous to claim otherwise. Large swaths of the Republican party throughout the years has has notable opposition to gambling and other addictive practices in the market.

I don’t think his idea is without merit, though his proposed implementation goes far too deep into nannying territory.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

We have numerous laws against addiction. It’s clear that social media platforms are aimed at making people addicted to them and "engaging" with rage-bait.

I do not know the answer to the problem, but it’s not exactly healthy that social media companies relentlessly optimize for engagement regardless of the costs it imposes on public discourse.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Numerous videogames — mobile games, especially — are built with what we could call “addictive systems” that are baked into, or the primary driver of, the core gameplay. (Hi there, every publisher who puts out games with loot boxes!) But videogames are also protected speech under the First Amendment. How could you propose regulating games with “addtictive systems” that wouldn’t also infringe upon the right of developers to make and sell games?

And how could such a system also be applied to social media, which is also built on “addctive systems” and (generally) protected by the First Amendment?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Funny you mention video games with loot boxes. Senator Hawley also proposed a law to tackle those as well.

As for social media….I don’t know. It’s clear there is a problem with incentives for social media companies as they’re currently structured. There is a problem to be solved. I just don’t think Hawley’s proposed law is the answer even though I am inclined to think the User Interface and push notifications are in no small part the problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

The thing is that loot boxes would be far more permissible to constrain than speech because finance isn’t as protected as speech.

To get to your first post I believe social media is a scapegoat for public discourse – it honestly has always sucked. Just look at the long history of especially stupid moral panics. Say what you will about the Satanic Ritual abuse panics – they never hanged a monkey as a spy.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Loot boxes and microtransactions are not exactly a gaming innovation but a money-making innovation, and there’s nothing artistic about their inclusion, either. While many games are designed with loot boxes and/or microtransactions in mind, that doesn’t make them an intrinsic part of the games; just a game-balance-breaking (in one way or another), exploitative, intrusive addition to an otherwise decent or harmless game that already costs a substantial amount of money. They are also well-defined in a way that a bright line can be drawn between what is permissible or not, and unlike things like achievements or infinite scrolling, the only defenses I’ve ever heard of these things from consumers were along the lines of “I personally never have to deal with them so I don’t care,” “It’s not that bad,” “This other company did them even worse,” or “It’s offset by this other thing,” so it’s not like anyone would miss them. (By contrast, no one I know of considers achievements in and of themselves to be harmful.) At any rate, free speech doesn’t mean the right to monetize your game (or art or whatever) in whatever manner you choose. Think of it like time-and-place restrictions on speech, requirements for transparency, disclaimers, or warnings, bans on false advertising, requirements for certain features to be “opt-in”, and restrictions on gambling. These are all reasonable regulation of speech, games, and/or businesses that are constitutional.

I see no reason why loot boxes and/or microtransactions couldn’t be regulated in a manner similar to gambling or privacy. I’m talking about age-restrictions, accessible transparency about odds, and full disclosure about which games have loot boxes, which games have microtransactions, and which games have other forms of paid DLC in a clear manner right on the box or store page, as well as a disclaimer about it in ads like we have for cigarettes and medications. I also believe that games you pay for up-front could possibly be more regulated in regards to loot boxes and DLC than F2P games like most mobile games, at least in regards to things like systems that cap spending, check the age of the player, parental locks, etc.

None of these would be perfect solutions, and they wouldn’t solve every problem. I’m not going to address every addictive system in video games, as I don’t think all of them could and should be regulated by the government. This is just a possible solution to two of the largest issues that can and maybe should be addressed by government regulations.

As for social media, I will be upfront and say that my solution doesn’t translate into that area at all, since I’m more concerned with monetized addiction than freely offered addiction. While I feel social media companies should be more transparent about a lot of things—like how they handle data and privacy, along with making sure things that may reduce your privacy being opt-in and privacy protection services being opt-out—that doesn’t really have anything to do with the addictive parts of social media per se. I guess it’s just going to have to be like shopping addiction; there’s no way to really impose reasonable regulations that wouldn’t have an unreasonably negative impact on reasonable use, so there’s not much that could be done by the government, especially since free speech is involved, too.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Not all addictive things are regulated as such. There are no regulations aimed at curbing shopping addiction, movie addiction, video game addiction, or several other addictions. Nor do I believe it would be good or even possible for the government to do so. The same goes for social media addiction.

Also, how are social media platforms aimed at getting people “‘engag[ed]’ with rage-bait”? I’m not saying that doesn’t end up happening with people on social media, but what makes you think that’s an intentional goal of the platforms?

ECA (profile) says:

Long ago, Far away..

There has been a rumor going around about HOW the gov. has gotten to big. Over and over, I keep hearing this over the (centuries? last one and this one) passed many years.
I could not understand where it came from this strange idea. Not really strange if its true.
Over the many years, Iv watched the power switch back and forth between Corps fighting back with the Gov. in exaggerated conflicts, that only led to the Corps Dumping/bankrupting Companies and running away with the money, (LOVE LLC) including retirement funds that were NOT supposed to be touched. From the Airlines to the banks to Big Pharma..
Love the corps that Raise the Top wages and then Scream that they arnt making profit. Even when Material prices in Asia are about 1/10th the Cost here, As well as Many corps created those business’s over there. From Cotton, metals, plastics, and Just about everything being cheaper over there…(Why?)
The old comment about being made in China, not being quality goods, is BITING us in the butt, because our Corps told them to MAKE IT THAT WAY..
Then we have our Congress, and others. Being paid every step of the way into offices. state and federal, and Our representatives, start bring up some REALLY stupid ideas and ideals, based on ????(money paid to them?) Like Not taxing corps for ?? years, just to get them to Come to their state? After which the Corp moves Somewhere else because the other state does the same thing?
Laws created After an incidence to Stop corps from doing certain things, seem to disappear. and SPIT happens Again?
We are a Capitalistic, Corporatocracy, Fascist, Plutocratic, Oligarchy and those WE ARE PAYING to do a job are being paid to rescind laws that control the Corps as well as pass New laws to Favor them and give them more power.
And we are in the middle of all this, as a few of those groups are fighting back and forth to see Who can get the most Favor.
Im starting to feel like an Adult watching 2-3-4, 2 year olds fight over Cookies.. And the only thing left as an adult is to CLEAN UP after the mess..

Isnt it time we CUT a few wages and benefits for those responsible? its the only thing they will notice. Just with the Congress $180,000 x 500=90,000,000 SAVED.. not counting Free medical, Vacations, Airplane rides, and Tons more.
I hope people remember that those folks, are supposed to be the SMART ones and HELP those that elected them. And listening to the Promises of Corps has NEVER-EVER gone very well.

Last comment. For anyone that wants abit of history. Everything in this country, related to the nations advancement, HAD to have the Gov. Start it, and subsidize it, before the corps would do anything about it. And the Corps want it now. The Rail system and the freeway system, they want to Privatize them. Even after WE’ have Paid for them over many years. Who thinks that the Cellphone system was Fully installed by the corps?(NOPE) the Phone system??(nope). WE as the Gov. have supported so many business’s and Ventures in this nation, from the Cars/trains/planes/import/export… MUCH has come out of our pockets, and these are not Cut away even when the corps are making the money..
Our stock market is so inflated, Farmers get about $0.03 per pound, and we are willing to pay ??? times the COST to harvest. (that ??? is a min of 50 times the price, FOR YOUR FOOD) It was a great exaggeration in the past to say "some day we will even pay the corps for the Water and Air that we breathe"…WE ALREADY DO.

Anonymous Coward says:

Part of lawmaking is narrowing down your idea in both text and concept so you cause as little colateral effects as possible. Clearly Hawley skipped that step…

On a concept level, the act would heavily damage the actual Gaming industry. The idea of “gamification” is self-evident: making something seem more like a game by adding elements usually found in games.

Badges and rewards came about as a way to to please the ‘Achiever’ archetype categorized by The Bartle taxonomy of player types.

Live voice chat in multiplayer games has been around for over a decade.

Account requirements? Also very common in multiplayer games. Not to mention the Account requirement for most game marketplaces, given that the games are tied to the account for said marketplaces.

Third-Party content? For said marketplaces: Community Hubs/Forums and Mods

At what point has a game (and it’s marketplace) become a social media platform? Where is that line drawn? The text of the act certainly doesn’t clarify. Nor has the text exempted anything but "a predominantly text based, direct messaging service such as email or a service that is substantially similar to email."

ECA (profile) says:

Re: The Important Thing is Protecting Google

Love the idea, but it dont work.
The Major corps on the nat, are fighting 2-3 wars to settle things.
Go out and try to deal with 200 nations, all with their OWN laws/regulations..
Then have the ISP’s trying to take over what the major internet corps have done. And every time they do, it Fails. And the Major ISP’s own what? Phone service, cell phone service, The last mile of internet, Cable TV/SAT TV.. And We the people are paying them Tons of money for their services. And those ISP’s use the money to Payoff the Gov, as well as SPEND >>billions<< buying other internet concerns, that end up failing.. Those Big corps are in a rush to get money from the Purchases, and NOT learning how they worked. They are Bill collectors, NOT the foundation of what the internet has become.

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