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Big Tech’s toughest critic in Washington just might be this freshman GOP senator from Missouri

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In the five months Josh Hawley (R-MO) has served in the U.S. Senate, he’s emerged as the smartest guy on his side of the aisle on tech issues. He’s become a burr in the saddle of Big Tech, offering clear, critical views on everything from data privacy to antitrust. We got Hawley on the phone for a quick Q&A on Thursday. Good timing, as the appetite for reining in Big Tech through new regulations has never been greater in Washington.

(The following has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.)

Fast Company: I’ve been watching the questions that you’ve been posing to tech company representatives at the various hearings and have found it both enlightening and entertaining.

Senator Josh Hawley: Just trying to do my job.

FC: Silicon Valley’s been coming to Washington for a long time, talking at these hearings. What is your impression of the way Silicon Valley talks to Washington these days?

JH: I will say that they, at least the major players, the big tech companies, are omnipresent here in terms of their lobbyists and PR outreach. And obviously they’ve made a number of appearances before congressional committees and I think that they have been, to put it as nicely as I possibly can, less than forthcoming–Google, Facebook, Twitter, in particular come to mind–before committees, including my own committees, including interactions with me, which I don’t take particularly kindly to. And I think, frankly, a lot of members are getting tired of getting the runaround.

FC: Do you feel like they come in with an attitude that Washington doesn’t really understand the business of Silicon Valley?

JH: Yes, I think this is the way that they conduct themselves, and particularly the way they conduct themselves in hearings, you see how they answer questions. I mean, it really is, in many cases an attempt to obfuscate and mislead. They give answers that are perhaps not technically incorrect–although sometimes they are, sometimes they’re just flatly misleading–but often the answers get at a portion of what’s being asked, but they try to convey an impression that is otherwise than the truth, and they’re banking on the fact that the members will probably not know enough to ask a follow-up question or be able to suss out exactly what is misleading and what is not in that answer. In just my five short months in the Senate, I’ve seen that pattern over and over again. And it’s very troubling.

FC: I want to ask you about your recent op-ed in USA Today about Facebook. It sounds like you believe that anything we can do on Facebook, in terms of keeping connected and sharing content, can be done through other channels. Is that the correct read? [From the op-ed: “You don’t........

© Fast Company