Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google were grilled during the US Congressional hearing on Wednesday. Democrats and Republican members lashed out at the four chief executives Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, stating that the companies wielded market power to crush competitors, amass high profits and gather data. The six-hour hearing saw lawmakers criticising the tech sector, adding that it had become too powerful and threatened rivals, consumers and even democracy.
Rep. David N Cicilline, chairman of the antitrust panel aimed to explore if the companies' influence and status came through non-competitive means. Amazon CEO Bezos, Apple CEO Cook, Facebook CEO Zuckerberg and Google CEO Pichai took the stand to defend their businesses.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler one of the top lawmakers confronted Zuckerberg with a 2012 message where the Facebook CEO said he sought to buy Instagram as he feared that it would "meaningfully hurt" the company, stated a report in The Washington Post. "Mergers and acquisitions that buy off potential competitive threats violate the antitrust laws. In your own words, you purchased Instagram to neutralize a competitive threat," said Nadler. At that point, Instagram was a rival social media platform and was not acquired by Facebook.
Amazon was scrutinised over allegations that it misled the committee by stating that it does not tap data from third-party sellers to boost sales of its own products. Rep. Pramila Jayapal however produced public reports to the contrary. Bezos, who delivered his first testimony to Congress said, "What I can tell you is we have a policy against using seller-specific data to aid our private label business. But I can't guarantee you that policy has never been violated."
Google was accused of stealing restaurant reviews from Yelp and threatening to delist the platform when it pointed out. Cicilline also accused the search giant of monitoring web traffic to keep competitive threats in check. Pichai disputed the claim and said, "Today, we support 1.4 million small businesses supporting over $385 billion in their core economic activity. We see many businesses thrive, particularly even during the pandemic."
Cook who faced fewer questions was interrogated about Apple's handling of the App Store.
More uncomfortable questions were thrown at the CEOs over privacy risk and polices online content.
All of the four executives stressed on their contributions to the US economy. While Amazon called itself one of the most popular consumer brands, Apple spoke about its popular ecosystem of apps and high-end phones. Facebook said it stood for free expression and speech, while Google pointed out its role in finding information and businesses.