Missouri AG Josh Hawley: Congress Went Soft on Facebook’s Zuckerberg

Saturday on Hugh Hewitt’s MSNBC show, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate running against incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), criticized Congress for being too “soft” on Silicon Valley.

Hawley has initiated an investigation into Google for possible data collection and privacy abuses. He also suggested that Congress’ handling of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was underwhelming.

Partial transcript as follows:

HEWITT: Now General Hawley, the reason I originally invited you on before this RV story broke was because you have sued Google. And I have made it a point over the last year to bring on Republican after Republican – Ajit Pai, Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy, Speaker Ryan, and ask them about Google and big tech and Silicon Valley. Why are you suing Google? Explain to the audience why you’re going after Alphabet, which is Google’s parent company, and what you hope to achieve.

HAWLEY: Well, we’ve got an investigation into Google, Hugh, because they are the most powerful corporation in the world, maybe in the history of the world. They collect more personal, confidential, private information on consumers than any other corporation ever, and I want to know what they’re doing with it. I want to know what they’re collecting. I want to know if they have permission from consumers to collect it. I want to know who they’re giving it to. And I’d also like to know are they squelching conservative viewpoints? Are they controlling the flow of information in a way that benefits them and discriminates against other speakers with different viewpoints? So I want answers. It is incumbent on law enforcement officials to hold Google accountable, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

HEWITT: Are you afraid that Google, and by extension Facebook and the rest of big tech are going to turn their guns silently and algorithmically, if that’s a word, against Josh Hawley in the fall, because you’re a threat to them in the Senate?

HAWLEY: They might, but I’m not afraid. I mean, look, we also have an investigation of Facebook along the very same lines. I’m the only attorney general in the country who’s holding these big tech companies accountable. And I’m going to go right on doing so, Hugh. That’s what I was elected to do. I’ve always said I’m a tough lawyer. I’m a tough prosecutor. I’m going to be tough and get the answers for the people of Missouri, and I don’t care who threatens me. We’re not going to back down.

HEWITT: Do we need a new regulatory body? And I have asked this of the Leader, and of the Speaker, and of Ajit Pai and others. Do we need a new regulatory body to focus on big tech and the economic monopoly they represent?

HAWLEY: Well, first, we need our current laws to be enforced. And we have antitrust laws in this country. We have them in the state of Missouri. We have laws that prohibit the taking of consumer information without consent. So number one, let’s enforce the laws that we have on the books. But number two, I do think we need to ask ourselves how our laws map onto and affect this new world, this new tech world that we’re living in, in this day and age in 2018. So I think we need to look at our current legal regime. But let’s begin by actually enforcing it. Let’s begin by making these companies be accountable to the people. After all, that’s who they are supposed to serve. It’s the people. They’re not bigger than the American people. They’re not bigger than the people of Missouri. They should be held accountable, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

HEWITT: You know, Ajit Pai at the FCC took on big tech, Attorney General Hawley, and he ended up with 24/7 security for his family. Are you afraid of the same sort of problem from the left, and from the, I don’t mean the large left, but the crazies on the left and the crazies on big tech assaulting you and your family?

HAWLEY: Well, I mean, look, we’ve certainly taken plenty of incoming fire, metaphorically speaking, on this, and lots of threats from lots of people in terms of you know, this isn’t something you should be looking into. You should be giving these companies a pass. But we’re not going to do it, and I’m not going to be deterred. We just want the facts, Hugh. And I want to emphasize I haven’t prejudged the outcome of our investigations. We just want the facts. But I am not going to be deterred from getting the facts. We will do it as long as it takes. We will press as hard as we have to in order to get the facts. What are these companies doing with our information? What kind of speakers are they favoring or disfavoring? And once we get the facts, then we’ll know how to act.

HEWITT: Attorney Generals fell over each other trying to sue big tobacco back in the day. Is anyone coming to stand with Josh Hawley to go after big tech?

HAWLEY: Well, I certainly hope so. A number of attorneys general have expressed great interest in what we’re doing. I know lots of folks all over the country are watching our investigations, watching how we proceed. I would call on ever law enforcement agency and leader to be sure that they are standing up to enforce our laws and hold these companies accountable. And again, Hugh, I’m not prejudging anything. But look, we need to get the facts here, and it’s incumbent on law enforcement to do that, and that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.

HEWITT: Did, last question on this subject, did the Senate and the House go too easy on Mark Zuckerberg when the Facebook CEO was in front of it?

HAWLEY: I’m sorry, say that again, Hugh?

HEWITT: Did the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, went before the Senate and the House. Did those bodies go too easy on him?

HAWLEY: Well, I mean, I certainly don’t think they were too tough. I mean, I think it is absolutely vital that we force these companies to answer questions and to be accountable for what they are doing. And I think frankly, we need in the United States Senate someone who is going to stand up to big tech, somebody who knows what big tech is doing, and who is able and willing to take them on, and that’s one of the reasons I’m running.

Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor


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