Four Cheif Executive Officers (CEO) of the big tech companies appeared before the Congress on Wednesday. Tim Cook of Apple, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Sundar Pichai of Alphabet/Google and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook appeared in a panel via videoconference.
All of them, including two fo the world’s richest men, appeared before the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust panel to answer allegations that the companies are too dominant or have harmed competition, each in their own ways. The hearing was supposed to happen on Monday initially but was postponed later.
The hearing which lasted 5 hours, had 15 member panel of Republican and Democrat lawmakers.
All 4 tech companies are being investigated for different reasons. Amazon is being investigated for using data of its 3rd party sellers to see what sells and undercutting their sales on its platform. Google is being questioned for favouring its own services in search results.
Apple has been accused of its app store policies that limit how apps can be designed and it drives app makers to use Apple’s payment channels. Facebook CEO is on the panel to answer the allegations of dominance over social media and digital advertising.
Last year in June, the House Judiciary Committee had launched a 'top-to-bottom' antitrust probe of big tech. The antitrust panel led by Rhode Island Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, has conducted interviews with many of the rival company executives and has demanded troves of evidence from the companies.
Cicilline, during the hearing, said:
These companies as they exist today have monopoly power. Some need to be broken up. All need to be properly regulated and held accountable.
Zuckerberg was grilled for the emails he sent to his employees stressing on the need to acquire Instagram in 2012 because the platform could become “very disruptive” for Facebook.
Facebook later acquired Instagram for $1 billion. “If this was an illegal merger at the time of the transaction, why shouldn’t Instagram now be broken off into a separate company?” Rep Jerry Nadler asked.
Zuckerberg claimed he has always maintained that Facebook viewed Instagram as “both a competitor and as a complement” to its services. “At the time, almost no one thought of them as a general social network.”
Apple’s guidelines for its App Store
According to The New York Times, Tim Cook was asked the least number fo questions but he had to clarify if Apple favoured some developers over others.
Cook was questioned why parental control app OurPact was taken down soon after Apple introduced Screen Time. To which, Cook replied, “We were concerned about the privacy and security of kids,” He claimed that the OurPact act was vulnerable to third-party takeovers. “So we were worried about their safety,” he added.
Amazon using seller data to create its own products
Amazon has been accused of using seller data to create similar products and cutting down the sales of competitors. For the first time, Bezos admitted that the company might have misused data. Till now, Amazon and its representatives have denied the allegations.
Not the first antitrust hearing
Interestingly, 22 years ago, in 1998, Bill Gates, the then President of the Microsoft, had appeared before the Senate judiciary committee to respond to the allegations of Microsoft muscling out the competition. What Bill Gates said has become a common one-liner among the startup ecosystem.
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#TBT: 20 years ago, Microsoft President Bill Gates made his first appearance before Congress. It occurred almost exactly 20 years before Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's first appearance this week. During the 1998 hearing, Gates was pushed on Microsoft's sales figures for the year, which included total revenue of S14.48 billion. Sen. Orrin Hatch was present at both hearings. #throwback #history #microsoft #facebook #zuckerberg #congress #capitolhill #news #politics #cnn
Gates argued that Microsoft has introduced products at affordable prices, created jobs and economic opportunity and made the United States a leader in innovation. Yadda Yadda Yadda.