US lawmakers clash with top tech bosses

The bosses of the world’s largest tech firms were given a dressing down by US lawmakers yesterday in a hearing about their sector dominance and interference with online discourse.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sundar Pichai of Google appeared before members of the House judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee, which has collected 1.3 million documents and conducted hundreds of hours of interviews as part of its investigation.

Subcommittee chairman David Cicilline began by accusing the tech giants of stifling competition, acquiring rivals to gain market share and then overcharging consumers and businesses reliant on their services.

“Our founders would not bow before a king,” the Democrat said. “Nor should we bow before the emperors of the online economy.”

Alphabet boss Pichai struggled to respond to Cicilline’s accusations around Google taking reviews from Yelp and cross-posting them to its own pages, calling the practice “economically catastrophic”. When Yelp asked Google to stop, Google reportedly threatened to remove Yelp from its search listings entirely.

“The evidence seems very clear to me that as Google became the gateway to the internet, it began to abuse its power,” Cicilline added.

Republican representatives meanwhile, directed their questioning towards allegations of anti-conservative bias on social media platforms.

Zuckerberg faced repeated questions about Facebook’s purchase of Instagram in 2012, with congressman Jerry Nadler calling the acquisition “exactly the type of anticompetitive acquisition the antitrust laws were designed to prevent”.

Representative Jim Sensenbrenner asked Zuckerberg why conservatives are “censored” on Facebook, claiming that Donald Trump Jr was removed from the platform for sharing a video containing false information this week – to which Zuckerberg explained that it was Twitter limiting Trump’s account for posting the video.

Representative Pramila Jayapal pressed Bezos on whether Amazon used data from third-party sellers to make sales decisions. In a previous hearing, an Amazon executive denied this under oath and was contradicted by a later news report. Bezos was also asked whether the online giant favoured its own products when prioritising certain shipments during the pandemic.

Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia asked Cook about the investigation which had raised concerns that rules governing the App Store review process were not available to the app developers. “The rules are made up as you go and subject to change - and Apple expects developers to go along with the changes or leave the App Store – that’s an enormous amount of power,” he stated.

Cook argued the App Store does not constitute a monopoly because it does not charge the vast majority of apps to list there, adding that 84 per cent of apps are not charged anything and Apple has not increased commissions on apps since 2008.

The US Congress is considering rewriting antitrust laws, although new legislation is not expected soon.

    Share Story:

Recent Stories