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.