Hawley Slams Robinhood for Halting GameStop Trading, Calls It Big Tech 'Content Moderation'

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley slammed trading app Robinhood for halting trading of GameStop and several other stocks last week, claiming that it was "content moderation" by Big Tech.

Hawley made his comments in an op-ed published Monday morning in First Things, where he wrote about the recent move by Robinhood to limit trading on GameStop after users of the subreddit R/WallStreetBets worked together to challenge hedge fund investors who bet against the company's share price by short selling.

"So when GameStop traders decided to call Wall Street's bluff—when the elites' stock options house of cards started tumbling down—Big Tech did what it does best: It shut down their Discord server and closed off the Robinhood purchases. This wasn't market manipulation, of course. It was just content moderation," Hawley wrote in the op-ed. "And now the crackdown will begin. Get ready to be told that retail investors are the problem. They're too unsophisticated to be trusted. They're herd-like. But do not under any circumstance question the financial system that built the house of cards they toppled."

Hawley also stated that the move to restrict trading for GameStop "was Big Tech, once again, allegedly democratizing another sphere of American life captured by elite control."

The soaring price of GameStop shares took a toll on several hedge funds, such as Melvin Capital, which was forced accept rescue capital from other hedge funds, including Citadel LLC.

On Sunday evening, Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev explained the decision to halt trading of GameStop and other stocks during an interview with Tesla CEO Elon Musk on the social networking platform Clubhouse. "This was a clearinghouse decision and it was just based on the capital requirements," Tenev said.

Hawley, in his op-ed, went on to criticize Robinhood, Citadel and newly confirmed Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, after it was reported that Citadel paid her speaking fees in 2019.

Josh Hawley
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) on Monday slammed Robinhood for halting GameStop trading, calling it "content moderation" by Big Tech. Here he arrives at the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on January 20 in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty

"But like the tech platforms, Robinhood wasn't really about its users. Its bread was buttered by selling the data on users' trades to the big players—the elite guys, like Citadel—to give them inside tips on where retail investors were sending their money. And the Citadel guys, in turn, pay off their regulators—like treasury secretary Janet Yellen—in their years away from government for favors when they're back in power," Hawley wrote.

This is not the first time Hawley has been critical of Big Tech, Wall Street and Robinhood.

In a Friday interview with Fox & Friends, he said, "What we've seen I think with this GameStop meltdown that Wall Street is having now is that these folks at home, these day traders, retail investors, they got more criticism and more scrutiny than the people who single-handedly crashed the entire financial market in 2008, and they got bailed out. The government bailed out all of those people. I mean it really shows you that the fix is in."

He added, "I just think this shows you that just like we got this concentration of power in so many industries—the tech companies, on Wall Street too, the big banks, the big hedge funds. They don't want the competition. They want to be in control."

Newsweek reached out to Robinhood and Hawley for comments Monday but did not receive a response in time for publication.