Republicans and Democrats against high-tech giants

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In a rare unanimity, 15 members of Congress from both parties attacked for five hours the CEOs of the four largest technology companies in the world at a hearing on their conduct in the areas of privacy and competition. Initiate legislation to limit the power of companies, whose aggregate market value is $ 5 trillion.
The hearing was attended by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg; Apple CEO Tim Cook; Alphabet CEO (Google’s parent company), Sundar Pichai; and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. It was held in a visual committee, due to the limitations of the corona, with the four being on the west coast, some of the committee members in its conference hall, and the others – in their offices. The hearing lasted five hours, and was compared in the United States to that of the CEOs of tobacco companies in 1994, in which they claimed that tobacco was not addictive, and led to unprecedented measures against smoking.

The attacks on the societies were common to Democrats and Republicans, albeit from different directions. Democrats have come out against the practice of acquiring small companies to prevent competition, while Republicans have argued they are working against conservative voices (as President Donald Trump claims, who tweeted before the hearing that he would take action against the companies if Congress did not). Committee Chairman David Sicily said: “As gatekeepers to the digital economy, these platforms have the power to pick winners and losers, bring down small businesses and enrich themselves while stifling competitors. Our founding fathers did not kneel before a king. We should not kneel before the emperors of the digital economy. ”

Jerry Nadler, the Democrat who heads the House Judiciary Committee, quoted Zuckerberg emails that indicate a plan to oust young rival companies from the market. , Claimed that Google was acting out of prejudice and asked Pichai if the company would change its products to help Joe Biden be elected president. To such greatness. “We treat this procedure with humility and respect, but we will not make any concessions regarding the facts,” Cook said.

The most questions were directed at Bezos (at his first appearance at a congressional hearing) and Pichai, then at Zuckerberg, while the smallest number of questions were directed at Cook. Sicilin set the tone already in his first question to Peachi: “Why is Google stealing content from honest businesses?”. Pichai replied: “With all due respect, Mr. Chairman, I do not agree with this definition.” Pichai was repeatedly asked about Google’s dominance in the field of search engines and its attempts to retain all surfers. He replied that Google has competitors Many in specific category like online shopping.

Zuckerberg was asked about emails in which he and Facebook executives discussed in 2012 the acquisition of Instagram as a possible (which they realized) way to eliminate a possible competitor. He replied that Instagram’s success was never guaranteed but was due to Facebook investing in it. When Bezos was asked if Amazon was bullying competitors, he replied in the negative – then a recording of a bookseller asking him to break free from the company was screened. Cook was asked if Apple prefers application developers over others, and he replied that the company has open and transparent rules that apply equally to everything.

Commentators say the impact of the proceedings in general and the hearing in particular may be limited, as antitrust laws were created about 100 years ago and are not suitable for dealing with Internet companies. The laws and their implementation focus on the benefit of the customer and especially on the question of whether a company is a monopoly that can charge any price as it sees fit. High-tech companies claim that these settings do not apply to them, as their services are provided for free. Their opponents respond that they charge a significant price in the form of using information about customers and invading their privacy, and that their behavior is monopolistic in the sense of eliminating any competition while hostile.

At this point there is disagreement between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, support a change in the law to bring it into line with technology companies. Republicans, who control the Senate, oppose such a change. In any case, it is difficult to assume that any initiative will be launched in the three months remaining until the election, and when Congress is also expected to soon deal with another package of aid to the American economy due to the corona. And in any case, Congress does not currently have the power to force a split of the big companies to reduce their power.

The main significance of the hearing, beyond its public and political side, may be in the ammunition it provided for a series of investigations and lawsuits against the companies. The Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and the Attorney General’s in many U.S. states are conducting lawsuits against companies, both criminally and civilly. From Zuckerberg regarding Facebook’s dealings with competitors, regulators around the world are also working to limit the power of large companies, headed by Margaret and Steiger, the EU Commissioner for Competition.



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