, 14 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
Hi, former FTC Commissioner here. And a conservative.

A conservative Senator (@HawleyMO) has proposed that the FTC — a group political appointees at a federal regulatory agency — regulate internet speech.

But first, a thread.
The bill asks the FTC to determine when social media platform moderation decisions are “designed to” or intend” to negatively impact a political party. Or when they have a “disproportionate impact” on a party.
The most obvious point — one @BerinSzoka has emphasizes — is that a “Fairness Doctrine” for the internet is a bad idea. And the bill quite literally injects a board of bureaucrats into millions of decisions about internet content. This is central planning. Full stop.
Second, no FTC Commissioner is expert in assessing the design or intent of algorithmic decisions over content. Much less their disproportionate impact — compared to what? The impact of some hypothetically neutral moderation?
Third, the bill requires the FTC to act in a manner antithetical to its fundamental mission of protecting competition. Imagine an algorithm responding to consumer preferences for information that favors one party over another. Competition to give consumers what they want.
But the bill would suppress, or at least tax, such consumer preferences in favor of the judgment of five unelected officials about what content would be “neutral.”
The ease with which the bill tramples on the sovereignty of individual internet users will be no surprise to anyone who read Senator Hawley’s FB op-ed which presumes social media platforms uniformly make users worse off — like a defective toaster that explodes.
The defective toaster, btw, was Senator Warren’s metaphor for credit products like payday loans for high risk borrowers. She too argued we should set up a regulatory mechanism to ban those because she claimed, also contra evidence, they made all users worse off.
But the truth is that there is a ton of consumer surplus here arising from voluntary exchange in social media platforms. I’m old enough to remember conservatives being into that kind of thing.
FWIW, I’m very sympathetic to the view that social media platforms have been either tone deaf or at times outright hostile to conservatives.
However, most of what I’ve seen for “solutions” for the “problem” of social media platform political bias have been either: (1) invoking antitrust to “break em up”; or (2) top down regulatory boards like this bill.
Both seem to mostly be about swinging the biggest hammer you can find out of frustration — and they are both big hammers — whether or not it makes any sense to do so.
Both approaches are remarkably short sighted in my view. The antitrust “break up” approach requires both undermining markets, consumer sovereignty, and the rule of law to achieve some political end.
The Hawley Bill similarly offers the choice of death by bureaucratic board or the plaintiffs’ bar. Yes, this will impose big costs on social media. That might feel good to some conservatives politicians. But the hangover will be the cost it imposes on everyday internet users.End.
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