If Big Tech companies like the FANGG stocks don’t know the name Josh Hawley, they’d better learn it. The first-term Republican Senator from Missouri is taking aim at Big Tech, and making a name for himself in the process.
Who is Josh Hawley?
Hawley is a 39-year-old Senator from Missouri. He graduated high school in Kansas City before moving onto Stanford University. From there, he taught at St. Paul’s School in London. He then moved back stateside to earn his J.D. from Yale University. After graduating, he served as a clerk in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Later, he served as a clerk for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
After his time as a clerk, Hawley began his career teaching and practicing in various locations. He began his political career in earnest in 2016, when he ran to become Missouri’s Attorney General, taking almost 59 percent of the vote. While serving in the role, he joined in a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. He also launched an investigation into the Catholic clergy, promising to investigate and publish reports on any cases of potential abuse.
Hawley received criticism for his alleged “kids gloves” treatment of then Governor Eric Greitens when the latter became enmeshed in a scandal. Hawley initially refused to investigate, before launching an investigation that political opponents labeled “half-hearted.” Ultimately, he did call for the Governor’s resignation. But his opponents believed it was too long in coming.
In November of 2017, a year before his election to the Senate, Hawley began to target big tech companies. He started with Google, investigating their data collecting practices and whether search results were unfairly biased. In November 2018, he defeated two-term incumbent Claire McCaskill by a margin of 52 percent to 46 percent. It was a critical victory in the Republican’s campaign to maintain control of the Senate.
Tech On Notice
Now serving as the youngest member of the Senate, Hawley is already making a name for himself. Despite a new job title, he has maintained his press on big tech companies like Google. And yesterday, he received a significant platform: sharing a stage at the White House with the President.
Hawley, for his part, laid on Trump-esque rhetoric thickly, criticizing the media and praising his host, saying: “the media says, the establishment media, the fake media, they say, ‘Oh, there’s no censorship in social media. That’s all made up. That’s all fake.’ You and I know that that’s not true.”
He then went on to layout a clear agenda for tech companies: ” I think we need to say to them here’s the deal, Google, Facebook, Twitter, they’ve gotten the special deals from government. They’ve gotten a special giveaway from government. They are treated unlike anybody else. If they want to keep their special deal, here’s the bargain, they have to quit discriminating against conservatives.”
He finished with a scathing rebuke of their policies: “They ought to abide by the same principles of free speech and the First Amendment that this country embraces… And I don’t think it’s too much to ask for these huge tech platforms who’ve gotten rich off of our information… they got rich off of it, they got rich off of their special privileges from government. They want to keep those, they shouldn’t discriminate, they shouldn’t censor, they shouldn’t shut us down.”
The Road Forward for Tech
Of course, FANGG stocks have faced bigger threats in the past than a freshman senator. But Hawley looks committed to sinking his teeth into these attacks. He may see it as his path to continued face time with the President and continued recognition as a star of the party.
For tech companies, perhaps it is time to consider whether their policies unfairly censor conservative voices. It is a common criticism, but one they rarely choose to address. A little bit of transparency could go a long way in rebuilding the public’s trust in them.
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