Security breaches, privacy violations and numerous scandals have done little to diminish the power of Big Tech companies like Facebook and Google. Federal institutions meant to punish these companies and protect the American people have failed. It is hard for companies with immense wealth and power to feel compelled to change when they receive little more than a slap on the wrist for wrongdoing.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) wants this to change. He has stepped forward with a proposal of meaningful reform, a plan to reshape the Federal Trade Commission into an entity with serious teeth.
The FTC has taken fire from both sides of the political aisle for its inability to mete out meaningful penalties to tech companies caught illegally sharing user data or lying to the public. The agency has also found itself squabbling with the Department of Justice, as neither party has been sure who has jurisdiction when investigating Big Tech.
Hawley has said the FTC is “poorly designed,” as its current structure limits the opportunity for improvement. And so the Missouri senator has proposed remaking the agency from the ground up.
Hawley’s plan would make the FTC a branch of the DOJ, ending the turf war between the two agencies. This overhaul would streamline federal investigations of tech companies. Responsibilities would be clearly delineated. The FTC would focus primarily on privacy and data violations, while the DOJ would review mergers and acquisitions for potential antitrust issues.
The proposal would also give significant power to state attorneys general, authorizing them to enforce all of the same laws as the FTC. Hawley, who made a name for himself by launching lawsuits against Google while serving as the state attorney general of Missouri, believes that empowering states to take action can move the needle on major issues.