Break Up Big Tech? With congressional investigation, the idea could evaporate


Calls to break up Big Tech are not going away. If anything, they can be more serious.

It was the bottom line for some opposing lawyers and other technology industry analysts, who spent five and a half hours grilling the chief tech CEOs about monopoly power on the Internet to members of Congress on Wednesday.

This rape is David Cicillin, DR.I. There was also the conclusion of, who presided over the hearing as the chairman of the House Entrepreneur, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee – and who has become a prominent opponent of Silicon Valley.

“This hearing has made me clear one fact: These companies still exist today, which have monopoly power. Some need to be broken. All should be properly regulated and held accountable,” he said on Wednesday evening. Expired.

Four Big Tech CEOs appeared together at the virtual hearing to testify: Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai.

Together, the officials represented a historic concentration of corporate power in a congressional proceeding, and experts said it was just the MPs being bombarded with some of the world’s most powerful men with questions asked about their business practices was for.

“It was refreshing to see viewers toe-to-toe with the tech sector headlines.”

Justice antitrust officer, now a senior adviser at Advocacy Group Public Knowledge, said, “It was refreshing to see law experts go toe-to-toe with tech giants.”

At various times, inquiries were nearly closed as some Republican members of the subcommittee sought to move the hearing to other topics, such as online speech rules, but even some Republicans raised questions about whether companies had competed with competitors. Is treated fairly.

Democrats also felt that there could be further coordination of the hearing, splitting the lines of questions among themselves so that efforts or limited minutes would not be duplicated.

Possible new laws

But beyond the theatrics, hearing can have real consequences for four companies. Critics such as the Department of Justice were able to speed up their case against the tech industry and several states prepared to initiate antitrust lawsuits.

Hearings among democracies about addressing the power of the tech industry before the November 3 general election underscored a new level of seriousness when they would have the chance to take unified control of the federal government and possibly century-old There will be an attempt to rewrite mistrust. Law.

Sicilyen is already working with Saint Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Another staunch critic of draft law, which would shake up fundamentally conflicting legislation on draft legislation. If the Democrats contest the election, they will have a chance to move forward.

One idea is the breakdown of the largest companies, but critics have also tried to re-examine them through other methods.

“The hearing gathered ‘around regulation’,” said Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute. “It is not out of the question that there may be bipartisan support for a new digital technology regulatory act,” she said – in short, to establish a framework to ensure non-discriminatory access to platforms, among other things A new law.

Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, an advocacy group that opposes demonetisation, said the hearing created momentum that would take other hearings and further into law.

He said, “It has taken decades for a committee in Congress to bring deep research and aggressive stance to big corporate actors.” “” I haven’t really seen anything like this in 15 years in politics. “

Pay attention to data

According to outside experts, the marathon hearing stalled many moments.

In one, Ray. Val Demings, D-Fla., Pressed Google’s Pichai in 2016 for its decision to combine the company’s DoubleClick advertising business data with other data kept by Google – a decision in which it said not to take an earlier oath Pledge information.

Pichai responded, “Today we make it very easy for users to be in control of their data.”

Demings cut it off, stating, “I’m worried that Google’s double click and switch with DoubleClick is part of a broader pattern where Google buys companies to survey Americans, and because of Google’s dominance, users have There is no option but to surrender. “

Rep. Kelly Armstrong, RN.D. Also asked Pichai about advertising data, prompted by YouTube’s 2015 decision to change the way ads are sold “as a result of which smaller competitors could not participate.” Pichai responded that the market still had a strong set of options.

Several lawmakers questioned Bezos about the use of Amazon’s data about products sold by third parties on its website. Bezos said Amazon was investigating a report by The Wall Street Journal this year that Amazon employees used such data to develop competing products, despite the company’s policy.

But Cicillin said it was not enough. “Amazon’s dual role as a competitive seller on that platform is fundamentally anti-competitive, and Congress should take action,” he said.

Facebook and Apple were also asked about the use of their data that they collect in one context and then use to inform business decisions in other contexts. Experts said it was not an accident that MPs took such steady care. Tech companies have an enormous amount of data, and although their practices may be allowed under current law, that may be a focus for future legislation.

Kimelman said, “Here’s the big overreaching theme: Big Tech platforms have both opportunities and incentives to exploit data, thereby weakening smaller players in the market.” ”

Not everyone thinks the time is right to consider antitrust law, especially before the Justice Department and other officials complete their ongoing investigation.

Deputy General Counsel Ashish Aggarwal in the advocacy group TechFreedom said, “Until Congress sees the investigation laws changing, until they get out of the investigation and we get some guidance from antitrust agencies and courts.”

But some of the questions that tech companies asked on Wednesday were raised under the current antitrust law, such as government enforcers should Facebook approve its earlier approval to buy Instagram, and Amazon to buy diaper.com.

The tone of the questions posed to the CEO indicated that the legalists were not intimidated by the idea of ​​trust, rarely after years of discussion.

Miller said, “There was nothing, thanks for coming here, you are amazing innovator and we don’t want to inconvenience you.” “It was asking very specific and detailed questions about their market power and how they are leveraging to harm other businesses and consumers.”

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