Big Tech CEOs testify before House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee

FAN Editor

Although the four technology giants face different issues, all are accused by critics of exploiting their market dominance in ways that reduce competition and harm consumers. 

They “feel free to crush anyone on their platform that’s offering very good competition against them. This has happened again and again,” Eleanor Fox, a law professor at New York University who specializes in antitrust and competition policy, told CBS News this week, summarizing the case against Big Tech. “They get huge amounts of data from the businesses on the platform, they take more data than they need to conduct business, and they use that to find out what is the new best thing and then they appropriate that thing. They use it to suppress innovative competition of the businesses using the platform.”

Amazon’s Bezos — the world’s richest person and head of an ecommerce empire as well as ventures in cloud computing, personal “smart” tech, groceries and beyond — initially declined to testify before the House panel unless he could appear with the other CEOs. He’ll likely face questioning over a Wall Street Journal report that found Amazon employees used sensitive, confidential data collected from sellers on its online marketplace to develop competing products. At a previous hearing, an Amazon executive denied such accusations.

Lawmakers from both political parties have suggested Amazon’s earlier statements could be misleading and might even constitute perjury. But Bezos has said, “We don’t use individual seller data to directly compete with them.” Amazon has pushed back against the Journal’s allegations, but has started an internal investigation.

Facebook’s Zuckerberg is more experienced on Capitol Hill. He endured over five hours of grilling last fall by another House committee to discuss hate speech, privacy, misinformation and Facebook’s widely criticized plan for a new digital currency. He also met privately with key lawmakers and with President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly criticized big tech companies and asserted without evidence that they are biased against him.

Following George Floyd’s death and protests against racial injustice, Facebook’s handling of hate speech has recently drawn more fire than issues of competition and privacy, especially after the company’s refusal to take action on inflammatory posts by Mr. Trump that spread misinformation about voting by mail and, critics said, encouraged violence against protesters. Zuckerberg has said the company aims to allow as much free expression as possible unless it raises the imminent risk of specific harms or damage.

Pichai faced his own congressional interrogation in 2018 over online privacy and data protection, the danger of digital monopolies, alleged bias against conservative viewpoints and censorship by China. The Goolgle chief acknowledged some points, but avoided the yes or no answers that lawmakers demanded. EU regulators already have concluded that Alphabet-owned Google manipulated its search engine to gain an unfair advantage over other online shopping sites in the ecommerce market and fined Google a record $2.7 billion. Google has disputed the findings and is appealing.

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