On Wednesday, the US House Judiciary Committee called the CEOs of tech giants- Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google in order to question them on killing competition and antitrust. The Congressional panel called all the CEOs of four market leaders simultaneously so that they cannot shift the blame on others.
However, the tech CEOs continued to blame the other companies this time too. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Google and Apple are the biggest market players, and therefore, a bigger threat to fair competition than Facebook. “In many areas, we are behind our competitors,” Zuckerberg said. “The most popular messaging service in the US is iMessage. The fastest-growing app is TikTok. The most popular app for video is YouTube. The fastest-growing ads platform is Amazon. The largest ads platform is Google. And for every dollar spent on advertising in the US, less than ten cents is spent with us.”
The US lawmakers also questioned Facebook over the purchase of Instagram in 2012, which, according to lawmakers, was done with the intention to kill competition. However, Zuckerberg argued that when the deal was cleared by the Federal Trade Commission and when Facebook purchased Instagram, it was a small player with no threat to Facebook’s market dominance. “People didn’t think of them competing with us in that space,” he said.
On the purchase of popular messaging app Whatsapp, the Facebook CEO said, “WhatsApp was also both a competitor and complementary,” to representatives… “They competed with us in the area of social messaging, which is an important space,” he added.
The most vehement attack from lawmakers came against Google and its advertising platform policy. Democrat Pramila Jayapal of Washington State questioned CEO Sundar Pichai on how Google operates its ad platform and observed that Google “is running the marketplace it’s acting on the buy-side and it’s acting on the sell side, which is a major conflict of interest.”
The hearing also took a political turn and just before the hearing began President Donald Trump alleged that big technology companies are being unfair to people of a certain ideology. “If Congress doesn’t bring fairness to Big Tech, which they should have done years ago, I will do it myself with Executive Orders,” Trump said.
Previously the President has alleged Facebook and Twitter for being biased against conservatives. During the hearing, Republican lawmakers echoed the sentiments of Trump and asked questions on similar lines.
Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, said during the hearing: “I’ll just cut to the chase — Big Tech is out to get conservatives. That’s not a suspicion. That’s not a hunch. That’s a fact.”
The Committee concluded that big technology companies need to broken up and regulated, as the current “marketplace allows them to do whatever it takes to crush independent business and expand their own power”.
“This must end,” concluded Committee head Jerold Nadler. “Today we had the opportunity to hear from four of the most powerful companies in the world. This hearing has made one fact clear to me, these companies as they exist today have monopoly power. Some need to be broken up, all need to be properly regulated and held accountable,” he said.
As the current Committee on the judiciary has the majority of representatives from Democratic Party and the chair is occupied by Jerrold Nadler, an influential Democrat, this hearing would work as the ground for preparing legislation of regulatory oversight to end unfair competition.
“There was considerable skepticism toward the tech sector as legislators worry about unfair competition and unfair practices,” said Darrell West, director of the centre for technology innovation at the Brookings Institution.
“If Democrats gain control in the (November elections), this hearing will serve as a blueprint for enhanced regulatory oversight,” West said.
Therefore, although the CEOs of tech giants tried to blame the other companies over monopoly, the committee, this time, concluded that they are running their own games of monopoly and needs to be held accountable and regulated.