US tech bosses face Congress hearing

The leaders of the world’s largest tech firms are set to make their case to Congress later today, attempting to avoid further regulation and scrutiny.

Written testimony submitted and published yesterday gives a glimpse of their arguments, with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg arguing that “companies aren’t bad just because they are big”, rather painting the social media giant’s success as coming about “the American way, by starting out with nothing and providing products that people find valuable”.

A panel of lawmakers is investigating how it and others’ business practices and data gathering have hurt smaller rivals.

The hearing will also see the chief executives of Amazon, Google and Apple testify. It follows more than a year of investigation by the House judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee, which has collected 1.3 million documents and conducted hundreds of hours of interviews.

The investigation is the most high-powered since 2001, when the US government pushed to break up Microsoft, amid accusations of it of illegally maintaining a monopoly position in the computer market.

Amazon boss Bezos is set to state that small sellers have succeeded on its third-party marketplace – one of many practices under scrutiny from members of Congress.

“I believe that Amazon should be scrutinised,” Bezos wrote. “We should scrutinise all large institutions, whether they’re companies, government agencies, or non-profits – our responsibility is to make sure we pass such scrutiny with flying colours.”

Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, will argue that his company does “not have a dominant market share” in any market, addressing criticism that the rules surrounding its App Store constitute gatekeeping.

“After beginning with 500 apps, today the App Store hosts more than 1.7 million – only 60 of which are Apple software,” Cook’s testimony read. “Clearly, if Apple is a gatekeeper, what we have done is open the gate wider – we want to get every app we can on the store, not keep them off.”

Cook will also point out that the vast majority of apps developers keep “100 per cent of the money they make” and said it was “comparable to or lower than commissions charged by the majority of our competitors”.

Google boss Sundar Pichai will seek to counter accusations that it dominates the search engine market, stating that he remained concerned about Google maintaining relevancy as people turn to Twitter, Pinterest or other websites for information.

“We know Google’s continued success is not guaranteed,” the testimony read. “Google operates in highly competitive and dynamic global markets, in which prices are free or falling, and products are constantly improving.”

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