Josh Hawley Proposes FTC Overhaul to Rein In Big Tech

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) speaks to members of the media outside the Senate chamber during the Senate impeachment trial against President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol January 22, 2020 in Washington, DC. Opening arguments will be heard on day 2 of the Senate …
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Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) unveiled a proposal on Monday to overhaul the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to better rein in big tech companies.

Hawley, one of the Senate’s foremost critics of big tech, unveiled a proposal to move the FTC to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to make it more accountable and strengthen its market analysis and enforcement powers.

Hawley said in a statement Monday that the proposal would give the FTC more power to rein in big tech:

The FTC isn’t working. It wastes time in turf wars with the DOJ, nobody is accountable for decisions, and it lacks the ‘teeth’ to get after Big Tech’s rampant abuses. Congress needs to do something about it.  I’m proposing to overhaul the FTC to make it more accountable and efficient while strengthening its enforcement authority.  This is about bringing the FTC into the 21st century.

Hawley’s proposal would radically change the FTC. It includes:

  • Restructuring the FTC to operate within the DOJ to reduce regulatory overlap.
  • Having one director leader, instead of a multi-member commission, lead the FTC.
  • The Senate confirming the director of the FTC for a five-year term.
  • The FTC gaining increased market analysis to direct its enforcement, assist the DOJ’s antitrust division, and inform Congress on antitrust- and anticompetitive-related matters.
  • Transferring the FTC authority to review mergers and acquisitions to DOJ’s antitrust division.
  • Granting state attorneys general concurrent enforcement authority.
  • Imposing higher ethics requirements and prohibiting senior FTC officials from working on or representing large companies for a “cooling-off” period.

Rachel Bovard, a senior adviser for the Internet Accountability Project (IAP), told Breitbart News that Hawley’s proposal would help hold big tech companies more accountable.

Bovard said, “The FTC has been ill-equipped and unwilling to deal with the growth of Big Tech. These reforms are necessary to ensure that our regulators stay current with evolving challenges. Moreover, placing the FTC into the executive branch will make sure their obligations are better prioritized and their work subject to transparency and accountability.”

NetChoice — a trade association representing Facebook, Google, and Twitter — denounced the proposal.

“Sen. Hawley’s proposals would place the entirety of FTC authority under the control of a single director, giving that person the sole power to dictate the future of American business,” Carl Szabo, a vice president and general counsel at NetChoice, said in a statement.

Hawley has long criticized the FTC’s inability to police big tech’s anticompetitive behavior.

The Missouri senator said in July that the federal agency has “utterly” failed to penalize Facebook “in any effective way” for violating Americans’ privacy.

Hawley also chastised the FTC for its “paltry” settlement with Google over allegedly violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The senator said that when “big bureaucracy” and big tech become “allies,” families lose.

“Some say we need new bureaucracies for digital markets. But the truth is we already have way too many bureaucrats, and they’re way too cozy w/ Big Tech. We need to make the FTC accountable, end its cozy relationship w/ Tech, & demand it enforce the law,” Sen. Hawley wrote Monday.

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