Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) scolded a Google executive Tuesday, saying that Congress’ patience with Google’s monopoly is running thin, and that it’s “time for accountability.”
Sen. Hawley spoke during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday on Google and its censorship practices regarding its search engines.
Hawley prefaced his point on Google’s censorship practices by noting that Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) asked Google vice president of government affairs and public policy Karan Bhatia if he would submit to an independent, third-party audit of its content moderation practices, to which Bhatia said no.
Blumenthal noted that Twitter and Facebook have both agreed to an independent, third-party audit, while Google has continued to dodge questions over whether they agree to an audit.
Sen. Blumenthal noted that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act grants social media companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter a “very excessively broad shield” and legal immunity to moderate their content. Many experts such as former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Wireless Bureau Chief Fred Campbell contend that Section 230 grants tech companies’ too much power to censor without significant legal recourse.
Hawley spoke after Sen. Blumenthal, noting that Bhatia will not tell either him or the Connecticut Democrat whether they will submit to an audit of their content curation processes.
Sen. Hawley said, “That’s what you said to Sen. Blumenthal’s question on whether you would submit to an audit that was the longest no in the English language. No, you’re not giving me a yes or a no.”
Sens. Hawley and Ted Cruz (R-TX) urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate big tech’s censorship practices, given their “enormous influence.”
Hawley also proposed legislation that would audit social media companies for bias in their algorithms or content moderation processes, and if FTC were to find bias, then they would lose their Section 230 immunity. President Donald Trump praised Hawley’s bill as “very important,” and a poll found that a majority of Republicans and Independents favor the bill.
Hawley asked Bhatia, “Will you submit to a third-party independent audit on your content moderation practices?”
The Google executive claimed that the Economist did a review of their content curation process, through which the Missouri conservative said that does not amount to an “independent audit.”
Hawley chastised Bhatia for refusing to open up to an audit of their content moderation practices, saying, “So sad.”
Sen. Hawley then said that the American people “have an interest in getting news that is free and fair” and having their data protected.
Hawley then said that Congress’ patience is running thin and that now is the time for accountability for “Google’s monopoly.”
Hawley said, “I think all of my colleagues here, clearly our trust and patience in your company and the behavior of your monopoly is running out, it has certainly has run out with me and it’s time for some accountability.”