George Gilder, in his widely read tech newsletter The Daily Prophecy, acidly criticizes those suddenly pro-regulation conservatives “joining the dims” with special attention to US Senator Josh Hawley as an anti-technology luddite, “the young Republican Senator was essentially repeating on the conservative side the same sentiment that President Obama espoused on the left when he declared of entrepreneurs: “You did not build that.”
Gilder cites Supply-Side blog editor in chief Ralph Benko’s horror of Hawley:
Because of Hawley’s advocacy of vast new regimes of regulation, my redoubtable advisor Ralph Benko described him to me at dinner the night before as the worst single US senator. Benko put Hawley at the very bottom of the ranks of one hundred, lurking in some subterranean crypt below even New York’s Senator Chuck Schumer.
Arousing Benko’s ire is Hawley’s strange presumption that the cultural influence of social media can be improved by a series of micro-regulations administered by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Gilder goes on to observe that:
The key question is whether owners of conduits will be liable for the content transmitted on them, or whether the masters of social media platforms will be responsible for all the applications built on them.
If telephone companies had been liable for any hate speakers or news fakers using their lines, we would still be communicating by some upgraded pony express. If providers of internet platforms had been required to ensure that no lies, frauds, hate speech or fake news passed through their facilities, they could not have functioned at all. There would be no internet.
Hawley’s ostensible purpose is to restrict such routines as “infinite scroll,” “auto-refill,” badges and rewards for loyalty, data tracking, and data monetization. Under ESICA, the Fairness Doctrine would rise again and neuter the net. Hawley’s proposal would make social media prove the “neutrality” and balance of any moderation functions they perform, even through algorithms such as Google’s enabling PageRank.
The overthrow of the internet would presumably be fine with Hawley. At least, he has said the “country might well be better off without Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram…” and that “maybe social media is best understood as a parasite on productive investment, on meaningful relationships, on a healthy society.”
But all his goals are essentially irrelevant compared to the creation of huge new bureaucracies regulating speech, politics, network algorithms, and communications.