This week, four of the most powerful men in the U.S. Tech industry were questioned on whether their platforms have violated anti-trust laws in recent years as they have risen to dominate the internet…
This hearing comes after more than a year of research by the House Judiciary’s Anti-Trust subcommittee to determine whether the largest tech companies in the country have achieved such a major monopoly that they are illegally stifling their much smaller competitors.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, these testimonies are being carried out virtually, and the lineup includes Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and one of the richest men in the world—Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Each of these companies have been accused of stifling smaller competitors in order to promote their own products and interests. For Apple, it’s their App store and accusations that they intentionally bury competitors in search results, and that they charge significant fees for apps to remain in their store.
Amazon has also been accused of stifling third-party sellers through search result rankings and by charging large shipping and warehouse fees. And it has even been accused of learning from the analytics used by smaller vendors to improve its own products.
Then, Google has also been widely criticized for the way they rank their search results, and back in 2017, they were fined $2.7 Billion by the European Commission for pushing their own products over competitors.
Finally, Facebook has been criticized for its social media domination through the acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp, and various privacy concerns that have plagued the company for years.
We did see prepared opening statements from each of these CEO’s, but none of them directly addressed the concerns that led to this hearing.
As the chairman of the subcommittee noted in his opening remarks, this investigation is crucial right now, because during the shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, small businesses have been hit the hardest, while these tech companies have grown even more powerful.
“Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, these corporations already stood out as titans in our economy. In the wake of COVID-19, however, they’re likely to emerge stronger and more powerful than every before as American families shift more of their work, shopping and communication online, these giants stand to profit. Locally-owned businesses, meanwhile, mom and pop store on Main Street face an economic crisis unlike any in recent history,” said Rep. David Cicilline.
There are also a number of concerns about the amount of data these companies are gathering from their users, what is being done with that information, and the lack of oversight surrounding it.