SOn Wednesday, Congress will question some of the richest men in history representing the most valuable companies ever created, as US authorities take more and more seriously if tech giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet have become too powerful.
The extraordinary audience will see Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sundar Pichai, owner of Google, Alphabet, to hold accounts for the dominance of the market of their companies, a domain that many say was achieved through anti-competitive business practices.
When the US House Judiciary Committee steps into its next antitrust hearing, the four-star witnesses will represent more than $ 275 billion in combined personal net worth, and more than $ 4.8 billion in market value. .
Wednesday’s hearing follows more than a year of investigation by the House of Representatives’ antitrust subcommittee, whose chairman, Rep. David Cicilline, launched an extensive investigation into the market power of tech giants after Democrats resumed control of the Chamber in 2018.
The House investigation, along with separate moves by the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department, represents the first time that federal regulators have closely scrutinized the tech industry since Microsoft’s case in the 1990s. In recent decades, a new generation of tech giants has come to dominate even more aspects of the economy with little or no scrutiny from regulators in the United States.
The issues in question are complex and important; questioning at congressional hearings is often not. When Pichai last testified before the House, a congressman asked him a question about his granddaughter’s iPhone, giving Pichai the opportunity to point out that, however dominant Google is, it is not responsible for Apple’s products.
Here is a preview of some questions these tech titans should face on Wednesday:
Jeff Bezos, Amazon
Amazon is not only the world’s largest retailer, but also the largest cloud computing company. The company has grown further by managing a market in which outside companies can sell their products, for a fee. Many critics argue that Amazon should not be allowed to run the market and compete within it, comparing the situation with Amazon as a player and referee, an unfair advantage over the other team. Why should you allow yourself to maintain this advantage?
For years, third-party sellers using the Amazon market have suspected that Amazon uses sales data to launch competing products under their own private labels. Last year, an Amazon executive testified under oath that Amazon does not do this; But in April, the Wall Street Journal reported that it was “standard operating practice.” Did the Amazon executive lie?
Amazon is a provider of cloud computing services, and some of its customers are also its competitors. Do you ever use customer data in the cloud to inform decisions about competing products?
Amazon is also an investor. Has Amazon ever used its role as a startup investor to inform competitor product development?
The coronavirus pandemic has led to increased demand, taking Amazon’s business to levels close to the peak holiday season. Have Amazon executives discussed taking advantage of the pandemic to enter new markets or extend their dominance of existing markets?
Tim Cook, Apple
There are 900 million iPhone users in the world, and the only way they can download applications to their phones is through the App Store, which Apple controls. Apple decides which apps may be in store and takes a substantial chunk of its sales. How does this control affect consumers?
Apple has repeatedly copied functions from third-party applications, incorporating them into its operating system and rendering them obsolete. Why should this practice continue to be allowed?
Last month, the developers behind the Hey email app went public with a chilling complaint: that Apple was requiring it to use its in-app payment tools, and to pay a 30% commission, or the app would launch. from the App Store. Why does Apple deserve such a big cut in other companies’ revenues?
Earlier this month, many of the top US tech companies said they would stop cooperating with Hong Kong authorities’ user data law enforcement requests after passing national security laws imposed. around Beijing. Apple did not. Does Apple’s dependence on China as a market and supplier compromise its commitment to human rights? Will Apple provide the personal data of the dissidents to Beijing?
Sundar Pichai, Google
Google had revenue of $ 162 billion last year, but that number barely captures its dominance in products like maps, email, web browsing, and more. It all comes from the first product, search: Google handles more than 90% of all search queries worldwide. How is this a healthy competitive market?
Google’s mastery of search gives it unprecedented power to shape the information that reaches billions of people around the world. And Google has sometimes struggled to ensure that such information is of high quality. How does the company plan to improve search results? And should a single company have so much power to define what the world can read?
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
For a time, the number of people using Facebook was greater than any other category of humans on Earth who were not followers of Christianity; So Facebook grew even more. In recent years, Facebook has acquired Instagram, WhatsApp, Onavo, Oculus, CrowdTangle, and Giphy. You tried to purchase SnapChat, then you copied its most popular feature. It recently released copycat versions of its rivals Houseparty and TikTok. Is there a rival social media app that has gained popularity in recent years and has not been acquired or copied?
On June 26, amid a growing advertising boycott of Facebook’s failure to curb hate speech, Zuckerberg assured employees that “all of these advertisers will be back on the platform soon.” What made you so confident that advertisers would have no choice but to return to the platform, whether or not it solved the hate speech problem?
Facebook has responded to criticism of its hate history by pointing to the large amount of content posted every day, claiming that it automatically removes almost 90% of hate speech before someone points it out. If Facebook is too big to prevent your product from being used to incite genocide and mob violence, isn’t it too big to exist?