Anti-trust questions prove that Congress is serious about this topic. But in the meantime, the same tech companies keep reporting record profits. Shareholders are happy. Congress is not. Life goes on…
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Testifying before THE HOUSE ANTITRUST subcommittee, the CEOs of Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook (Tim Cook, Sandar Pichai, Jeff Bezos and Jeff Zuckerberg). The hearing was about business practices that are considered to be a monopoly. This is an important clarification since other major tech companies CEOs like Twitter or Microsoft were not present.
Due to the pandemic, all four CEOs were testifying remotely. They had to swear that their testimony and answers were not fed by their staff. There were other technical difficulties throughout the 5 hour hearing.
The four of them were given 5 minutes to make some opening remarks. Bezos and Pichai highlighted their humble upbringings, while Tim Cook focused on the greatness of Apple as a unique American company and Zuckerberg mentioned how Facebook’s goal is to stand for “American Values” in a global market.
Contrary to previous similar tech hearings, this time the members of judiciary committee seemed to be well prepared and asked very specific questions about the regular business practices of each of their companies. If anything, it looked more like the CEOs were less prepared and not quite ready to provide straight answers to most of the questions.
As far as the main points of questioning for each company, here are some highlights:
Facebook was asked about cloning products of other competitors while also trying the acquire them. Instagram is the more clear case, although Snapchat has suffered from this cloning of their features numerous times. Zuckergerg was also questioned about Russian election interference, his role in promoting racism and anti-Semitism as well as Facebook’s response to the recent boycott of major advertisers as a response to Facebook’s business practices supporting hate for profit. The recent #stophateforprofit was supported by 1,100 advertisers to which Zuckerberg replied that “we’re also not going to set our content policies because of advertisers. I think that would be the wrong thing for us to do. We’ve cared about issues, like fighting hate speech for a long time.”
Amazon was accused of mining their party sellers data to develop and launch its own products according to a Wall Street Journal report. Bezos couldn’t deny the report, although he did say that they have a policy against using that type of data for their own private label benefit. He also added that Amazon is very proud of what they’ve done for their third-party sellers on Amazon’s platform.
Google’s Pichai was questioned about some of the company’s practices, like stealing reviews from other businesses (i.e. Yelp) as well as the use of customer data to boost their own advertising revenue. As far as their advertising practices, Google was accused of the equivalent of “insider trading” in the ad exchange market, by controlling the market place from the buy side and the sell side as well as the publishing side at the same time. This was even more clear after the acquisition of DoubleClick. When questioned about Google steering ad revenue to Google search, Pichai simply said that “we’re focused on providing users with the information they’re looking for.”
Tim Cook had to clarify Apple’s policies when it comes to the Apple Store regarding alleged unfair treatment of third parties, specifically developers who are at Apple’s mercy if they want to reach iPhone customers through its App Store.
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