On July 29th the leaders of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google (namely Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai) were summoned to Washington to testify at the US House of Representatives’ Antitrust Subcommittee. There, Democrats and Republicans confronted the executives for using their market power to crush competitors and to gain sky-high profits, data and customers.
The main goal of the hearing was to determine whether the companies have too much market power. To do so, the subcommittee members presented millions of documents, including some once private messages and emails of the CEOs, which highlight how the tech companies have become too big and powerful, how they threaten rivals, consumers and, in some cases, even democracy itself.
The heads of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google weren’t completely prepared for serious, on-topic questions about their operations. Let’s see more in detail which questions were asked to each CEO.
Apple CEO Tim Cook was accused of using data collected on the AppStore to see which are the most downloaded apps. After doing so, Apple creates a new app which is nearly identical and eventually, deletes the competitor app from the AppStore to get more downloads.
Among the several questions asked to Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, the most relevant ones regard the manipulation of the research results on Google. Google is accused of showing Google’s partners’ websites as first results. Furthermore, Google was said to be guilty of stealing content from other websites. This is what happened with Yelp, whose restaurant reviews were ”stolen” from Google. As soon as Yelp complained, Google threatened to no longer show Yelp in its search results.
Sundar Pichai was also asked about the control that users have over the use of their information, given the fact that users have no choice in sharing their personal data, just like with Facebook.
The main allegation to Amazon is having so much market share (47% of US e-commerce) to force any seller to sell through its portal. Thanks to its power, Amazon can force small suppliers out of businesses by making similar products cheaper than they could. Bezos said that this behavior is against Amazon’s policy, but he also said he could not guarantee that the policy had not been violated.
Mark Zuckerberg was questioned about its apparent support of disinformation as a way to make money, but the main line of attack against Facebook was highlighting the wat it has bought rivals to secure market dominance, for example WhatsApp and Instagram.
The ultimate goal of the House Subcommittee on Antitrust is producing new antitrust legislation, which is obviously not good news for the tech giants. The hearing marked a significant milestone for the House’s investigation, but we are still far from the finale. The next step will probably be the Subcommittee’s final report, which will be released sometime in August or September.
Do you think Big Tech companies have become too powerful and should be broken up? Let us know in the comments.