Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Sundar Pichai of Google, Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Tim Cook of Apple first appear together on Wednesday evening before an antitrust committee of the United States House of Representatives. Why were they called up for this hearing?
The hearing revolves around how dominant the companies are in the areas of online retail, smartphone software, social media and search. The House of Representatives committee has been collecting information about major technology companies for about a year. Since June, smaller companies have testified about the tech giants’ practices as witnesses.
Now the CEOs of the four companies appear at a hearing to answer questions from the committee. An important purpose of the hearing is to determine whether laws need to be changed to address competition concerns.
This is what the tech giants can get their picks on Wednesday night.
The panel plans to speak to Amazon CEO Bezos about the alleged use of third-party vendor data on the platform. According to an investigation by The Wall Street Journal the internet giant uses data from sellers on Amazon to develop products themselves. The company denies this and says it has strict rules for protecting the data of sellers and customers.
Bezos would not be present at the hearing at first, but nevertheless tackled. The other CEOs have testified before, but this is the first time for Bezos. The fact that the CEOs of the four tech giants simultaneously participate in a hearing – albeit digitally – is a unique event anyway.
Apple is under attack for the way the company manages the App Store. According to The New York Times the House of Representatives committee has been “flooded” with questions, documents and letters from competitors.
For example, Spotify has submitted questions about Apple’s dominance in the App Store. The streaming service complained to the European Commission last year about the “unfair” rules Apple would use on its platform.
Apple demands a 30 percent commission on purchases made through the Apple payment system. This puts Spotify at a disadvantage compared to Apple’s competing music service Apple Music, which does not have to pay the 30 percent allowance.
Facebook is investigating whether the company has a monopoly in the field of social networks. The group owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp and plans to merge them into one large social medium.
In addition, Facebook has bought several small and larger companies over the years. For example, earlier this year, Facebook bought GIPHY, a GIF platform for $ 400 million (over 340 million euros). GIPHY is connected to many other apps, which made it interesting for Facebook to buy the platform.
Through connections with other apps, Facebook can collect even more data from users to sell even more targeted advertisements. This led to much criticism. According to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, Facebook is “out to collect more and more data from us.”
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is the subject of competitive investigations in both the US and the EU. These focus, among other things, on Google’s dominant position in online advertising, search and smartphone software.
Google owns Android operating system, owns a popular search engine and is a major player in the advertising market. In Europe, the company has already faced several billion fines. Google is fined for, among other things, abuse of power with the search engine of the same name and the operating system Android.
Pichai will likely be asked how he maintains a fair (advertising) market. It is expected that the House of Representatives has several things to say about this.
The hearing can be followed via a live stream on Wednesday evening. The House of Representatives is expected to release a report of the investigation’s findings in the months following the hearing.