Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), the new Republican senator from Missouri, slammed the “sweetheart deals” between government and big tech companies at CPAC today, calling for legislative amendments to prevent viewpoint discrimination in the digital public square.
Sen. Hawley spoke on stage at CPAC in an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel, in a discussion about the conservative response to widespread viewpoint discrimination by Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other tech platforms.
“In the law we have a familiar phrase, it’s called viewpoint discrimination,” said Hawley. “We have to tell these companies that you can’t discriminate against conservatives, you can’t discriminate against libertarians.”
Hawley spent much of his speech attacking the “sweetheart deals” between big government and big tech. The senator said many such deals gave big tech companies special privileges and advantages, but “none more so than Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.”
Responding to questions from Strassel over how conservatives should address big tech, Hawley said: “we should consider amending Section 230” to strip legal privileges from companies that fail to remain viewpoint-neutral.
Hawley also spoke of a “concentration of power” in Silicon Valley.
“Do we want to have a country that is basically run from Silicon Valley, an economy that’s run from Silicon Valley, politics that’s run from Silicon Valley?”
“Google and Facebook should not be a law unto themselves,” said the senator.” They should not be able to discriminate. they should not be able to tell us to sit down and shut up.”
Strassel pointed out that the wrong kind of regulatory reforms — particularly those pushed by Democrats — might lead to more control over online speech, not less.
Hawley responded by saying that the goal for Republicans crafting tech legislation should be “more speech at the end of the day, not less.”
“I am not a fan of massive regulations, turning this over to agencies, [or] creating new agency powers,” said Hawley, instead advising that the approach to big tech should be to “enforce our laws.”
“Tech companies should have to follow the law. Let’s start from there.”
The senator also highlighted how Silicon Valley’s control over Americans’ personal data gives them even more power, and why control over online data has to be taken away from companies and returned to the individual.
“They collect so much damning information from us,” said Hawley, who also expressed concern that tech companies are “building profiles on our children.”
“We need to give people control of their own information. We as conservatives believe in property rights.”
Hawley argued that individual sovereignty over personal information should be written into law. American citizens, said Hawley, should have a “property right to their own information,” and “if they want to get it back, they should be able to get it back.”
“Giving people property rights… that’s the basis of our whole economic system.”