By Samuel Case
Google and Facebook were accused of abusing their market power from Democrats and Republicans on Wednesday in a congressional hearing featuring four of America’s most prominent tech CEOs; Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, and Apple’s Tim Cook. The videoconference hearing was the first time the four CEOs have appeared together before lawmakers.
Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) set the tone for the hearing when he began by accusing Google of theft. “Why does Google steal content from honest businesses?” he asked. He alleged Google stole reviews from Yelp Inc and threatened to delist Yelp from search results if it objected.
Pichai responded that he would want to know the specifics of the accusation. “We conduct ourselves to the highest standards,” he added, disagreeing with the characterization.
Facebook’s Zuckerberg took a series of questions about the company’s purchase of Instagram in 2012 and whether it was acquired because it was a threat, as he dubbed it in an email obtained by the committee. Zuckerberg responded that Instagram at the time was a tiny photo-sharing app rather than a social-media phenomenon.
Representative Pramilia Jayapal (D-WA) asked Amazon’s Bezos on whether the company used data from third-party sellers in making sales decisions. An Amazon executive previously had denied the practice under oath and was contradicted by a news report. Bezos answered that the company had a policy against such actions. “If we found that somebody violated it, we would take action against them,” he said.
On the Republican side, Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) accused the companies of hampering conservatives from reaching their supporters. Jordan asked Pichai on whether Google would help Joe Biden win in November. “We support both campaigns. We approach our work in a nonpartisan fashion,” Pichai responded.
Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) asked Zuckerberg whether content moderators disadvantaged conservative content. Zuckerberg said they were trained to be neutral.
Apple’s Cook rejected the notion there is nothing to stop his company from raising the commissions it charges in the App Store. “I disagree strongly with that,” he said. “The competition for developers – they can write their apps for Android or Windows or Xbox or PlayStation. We have fierce competition at the developer side and the customer side, which is essentially so competitive I would describe it as a street fight.”
A detailed report with antitrust allegations against the four tech platforms and recommendations on how to tame their market power could be released by late summer or early fall by the committee, senior committee aides said.
Sourced from Reuters American Wire, edited for brevity