by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
If you were looking for a David to the multi-billion-dollar, big-tech Goliath, you could do worse than Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.).
Since arriving to the Senate in January, Hawley has made a name for himself as a Silicon Valley skeptic. In March, he attracted attention for his heated cross-examination of Google executives. And in May, he delivered a provocative speech at the Hoover Institution in which he called “the entire social media economy” a “source of peril” for America.
Hawley has also put his legislation where his mouth is. …
… [A]s he explained in a wide-ranging conversation with the Washington Free Beacon, Hawley views his legislative work as part of a deeper critique of how tech firms, often heralded as the future of America, have designed a profit model driven more by addiction than innovation.
“One motivation [of the loot box bill] is to protect children from exploitative practices that are targeted directly at them,” Hawley said. “And I think it gets to a broader question about what video game companies, social media companies, are doing employing exploitative practices, addictive practices, in their business model, often aimed at kids, in order to make money. Is this really something that we want to countenance?”
The business models of many tech companies do differ radically from those of traditional firms. When we interact with real-world businesses, we usually trade money for whatever they sell, whether it is a hamburger or repairs to your house. But many popular tech products, like Facebook and YouTube, provide their content to users for free and make their profit off collecting data and then serving personalized ads.