Congress sweats over listening to CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google


  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook all testified before Congress on how they use their market power to destroy competitors.
  • Unlike other technical hearings, this was a minimal understanding and the politicians agreed.
  • The Tech Titans were not prepared for it at all, and they admitted to doing a lot of offensive things.
  • This is an opinion column. The views expressed are those of the author.
  • For more stories visit the Business Insider homepage.

The founder and CEO of Amazon has worked as the richest man in the world as a Silicon Valley executive, in which time we have rarely seen him worried. This is a man who dared the tabloids to taunt him. This is a person who employs a personal detective named Gavin D. Baker.

But on Wednesday we saw his worried face.

We watched it while Bezos testified before a subcommittee of the House Judicial Committee – a committee within a committee – that focused on antitrust enforcement. He – along with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Apple CEO Tim Cook – were all called to answer questions related to his power. These are the men who control things on the Internet – your apps, your messages, your ads, your news, answers to your questions, and just about anything you can buy.

For the past year this subcommittee has been investigating whether dominance over distribution has outpaced America’s decades of small business creation – whether Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon are competitive to harness their power.

Given the historical nature and intense media focus at the meeting, the lawmakers’ primary mission was to express their conclusions on the enormous power that the American people can understand in these ways.

And Bezos showed us his worried face because – aside from some members’ mistrust – the committee members did the same.

“[The committee] These companies have been shown to be gatekeepers in the fact that they engage in anti-competitive practices and their dominance is about monopoly power, not innovation, ”said Matt Stoller, an antitrust researcher and author of Goliath: Monopoly Power and Democracy The Hundred Years’ War.

It was the first time that men like Bezos cast Stoller as “lord of the universe”, answering questions from informed, powerful people. And under pressure, he acknowledged how venomous his critics have been treating him over the years.

When you rule the streets

For the most part, when Silicon Valley has gone to Washington it is an embarrassment for our politicians. Geriatric senators ask basic questions about technology and the CEO of Hot Seat restrains himself to provide his best media training and answer paternal questions.

At Wednesday’s hearing, there were some, including mostly ranking member F. James Sensenbrenner was a Republican from Wisconsin. There was some grandeur about being conservative on Facebook (they’re not) and Google (still not). But he was a minority of the minority.

For the most part, members of both parties asked thoughtful, well-researched questions. And it seems that CEOs were not ready for this. As Stoller noted, he had to accept a myriad of shady business tactics.

  • Members of both parties emphasized Facebook for its strategy to exit businesses that hurt the company’s internal email from the acquisition of Instagram, to buy, copy, or threaten competitors from the business.
  • Bezos closed the tongue stating why Amazon makes money from counterfeit goods, nor can it answer any questions about Amazon’s protocol to ensure that it is not selling stolen goods is.
  • Bezos explained through questions from representative Pramila Jaipal how Amazon uses third-party vendor data to develop in-house brands that compete only with merchants selling on its platform, “I cannot answer that question yes or no.”
  • David Cicillin, president of the subcommittee, said that, these third-party sellers outside of Amazon are called “partners”. They are called “internal competitors” inside Amazon.
  • In the same vein, Zuckerberg sweated through questions about his history of espionage on competitors.
  • Zuckerberg could not explain the fact that his company profited from unfairly pedaling. Cicillin said that despite being committed to only delivering accurate information about coronoviruses, Facebook received five hours and 20 million views before it would take a video full of false claims about the epidemic. Promoting that misinformation once on stage, Sicilyan said it was “a business decision.”
  • Democratic rape. Colorado’s Congressman Joe Neguse pressed the CEOs of Apple and Google, who both control the App Store, to promise that they would not use the information gathered from the apps in their stores to create competitors.
  • Democratic rape. Demo Demanding of Florida pressed Pichai the way Google surveys its customers by bundling data from all of their products (Gmail, Maps, etc.) to sell them targeted ads.

CEOs were media trained. They knew trying to give long answers to run out of the clock. He knew how to escape. And they knew to answer non-answer. Bezos, at one point, pronounced the words “I don’t understand” and I couldn’t help but find irony in it. The convulsions are complicated. The way these companies build pottery around them is so spectacular, and sometimes so ruthless, that it is hard to believe that Bezos can get lost after gaining anything. But at this hearing all four CEOs looked lost.

Perhaps the most humbling moment to hear was when Democratic Reapers. Lucy McBath of Georgia played a recording of a small textbook seller who was crushed by Amazon when her business became large enough to compete with Bezos.

“We were never given any reason. Amazon never gave us notice as to why we were being banned. There were no warnings, no plans.” And Bezos, faced with the recording, had no words of explanation.

why are we here?

Now you can say to yourself: “But Lynette, if we don’t have these big companies, how will we compete with the big companies from China and elsewhere?”

And let me tell you that unless we compete with ourselves, we cannot compete against anyone, here in America. What do these companies do when they crush their rivals – Cutting them, Or mimicking them, or burying their technology after acquisition – entices these companies. And the more thrilled they are, the newer they are.

Perhaps, for example, if there were Facebook contestants with a newsfeed who didn’t lie and resented that we might be able to go to that contestant, but we couldn’t buy Facebook Instagram and WhatsApp. Zuckerberg called it a “digital land grab.”

The American economy is not intended to be a land grab for the rich and powerful. It is intended to be a common sports arena, where people with talent and dedication can invent their own way to success. Even more importantly, the power with which our country is struggling can stifle these companies. When our antitrust laws were written back in the 1990s, and reviewed again in the 1930s, our leaders understood that once companies become huge they can take over politics And can run this nation.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt vice president Henry Wallace wrote in a 1944 essay on the dangers of fascism, “We should not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy as monopolies and cartels.”

“As long as scientific research and inventive ingenuity outpaces our ability to develop social mechanisms to elevate people’s living standards, we can expect the United States’ liberal capacity to increase. If this generous capacity is right From the channel, we can expect. To increase the area of ​​freedom of the United States. “

There is a feeling in this country that freedom is decreasing, that power is in the hands of few and that their voice matters more than many. Even as a member of the rankings, the congressional sensibian reviewed the merger of these companies with the government, given the state of confusion for a significant part of the hearing. He said that everyone makes mistakes, and the regulators made them there. The expectation of this subcommittee’s report, released to its conclusion, includes damaging emails and other powerful information about how these powerful people have surrounded power and made it almost impossible for anyone else to compete.

It is time for the American people to understand why their understanding is wrong, and where it is coming from, so we can change it.

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