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What to expect: U.S. Congress and big tech CEOs to face off in antitrust hearing

Victor Barreiro Jr.
What to expect: U.S. Congress and big tech CEOs to face off in antitrust hearing
Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sundar Pichai will talk to US lawmakers regarding actions within their companies which are seen as anti-competitive. Here's what you can expect to be tackled in the upcoming hearing.

The CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are set to face off against the US Congress on July 29 at 12 noon EST (Thursday, July 30, Philippine time).

The hearing is titled “Online Platforms and Market Power, Part 6: Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.”

Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sundar Pichai will talk to lawmakers regarding actions within their companies which are seen as anti-competitive.

The investigation itself should prove to be interesting as the committee has about 1.3 million documents from the testifying companies to lean on as they probe the 4 CEOs.

Following the probe, the committee intends to publish a report to show how executives of the companies avoided liability under existing US antitrust laws due to how antitrust laws did not take into account the behaviors within the technology industry. These include such tactics as the acquisition of competing companies and the subsequent dissolution of that competitor and adaptation of competing tech.

Each tech CEO will have to answer similar lines of inquiry about antitrust actions, though variances will apply, as based on remarks made by each CEO on what they expect to tackle.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, in his opening remarks, described how Amazon was helping to create jobs in the US while supporting small and medium business, as well as how the company was investing in causes meant to enhance social good.

Despite this, The Wall Street Journal reported in April how Amazon would use the data from sellers on its platform to launch products that would compete and likely beat products from sellers.

Apple’s Tim Cook said the company “does not have a dominant market share in any market where we do business” and widened the gate for developers due to its operating systems. 

Google’s Sundar Pichai meanwhile told lawmakers the products of Google (and by extension its parent company Alphabet) operate “in highly competitive and dynamic global markets, in which prices are free or falling, and products are constantly improving.”

Apple, and by extension Google, have been slammed by Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney for anticompetitive practices, however, such as the use of an “industry standard” 30% commission. 

Apple has also been in the spotlight for trying to get commissions from Airbnb and ClassPass when it sold virtual experiences, in this case online classes. Airbnb and ClassPass are taking the fight to Apple in this regard.

As for Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg’s prepared opening statement professes the company has more it needs to do to fight disinformation, but also stressed they got to their dominant position as a social network “the American way:” by starting with nothing and offering better products which people find valuable.

Zuckerberg also noted that “companies aren’t bad just because they are big.” This, despite there being nothing that can directly compete on the scale of Facebook, and whose actions or lack thereof have led to the spread of disinformation on a global scale. (READ: Facebook’s problems can’t be solved by more Facebook)

Lawmakers hope the hearing later will usher forward future regulations to help eradicate anticompetitive practices in the technology sector. The evidence-gathering period may have ended, but the fight for fairness moves on. – Rappler.com

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Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.