For decades, the tech industry has bypassed control over mergers, acquisitions, and potential anti-competitive behavior when anti-trust crusaders argued their case from the sidelines. But this week, the largest companies in the industry will be forced to face this evidence directly.
On July 29, lawmakers will face the CEOs of the four most powerful players in the technology industry: Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Since last June, House legislators have conducted a comprehensive technology sector inquiry focusing on whether some of the industry’s best-known names have grown too big and too powerful. Over the past year, the House Judiciary Committee̵
At the hearing, evidence from this investigation could finally become public knowledge. Throughout the year, the committee received at least 1.3 million documents from the reporting companies, conducted five public hearings and conducted hundreds of hours of interviews. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai have already been grilled by Congress, but not under these circumstances. Led by Chairman David Cicilline (D-RI), committee members enter this week’s hearing with a huge stack of receipts, leaving management little room to avoid uncomfortable questions.
“The other hearings they testified are not really hearings, but antitrust and monopolistic behavior,” said Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). The edge. “We do not do that. We are investigators. “
The main purpose of the Wednesday hearing is for Zuckerberg, Pichai, Jeff Bezos from Amazon, and Tim Cook from Apple to address the evidence the committee has created over the past 13 months. This is an intimidating number of documents that no technical CEO since Microsoft had expected antitrust fees in the 1990s. At the end of this investigation, the Committee intends to publish a report in the coming months that explains how the respective managerial companies have avoided liability under applicable antitrust laws, as these competition rules have never been drawn up taking into account the behavior of the technology industry.
“Since last June, the subcommittee has been examining the dominance of a small number of digital platforms and the adequacy and enforcement of existing antitrust laws,” said Cicilline in a statement last week. “Given the central role these companies play in the lives of the American people, it is critical that their CEOs are ready. As we said from the beginning, your testimony is essential for us to complete this investigation. “
The hearing may be particularly tough for Jeff Bezos, who testifies before Congress for the first time. Amazon has been a primary target for tech cartel scientists for years, and recent knowledge has put it in a particularly shaky position. At a hearing last July, Amazon’s associate general counsel, Nate Sutton, said the company did not access sales data from sellers. But in April The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon employees used independent seller data to control the development of their own Amazon products. According to the diaryEmployees reportedly analyzed the sales and profit margins of products such as a trunk organizer, which was sold by a third party before they launched their own competitor product. After the report was released, the House of Justice judge asked Bezos to testify in the light of history. It’s a good bet that Bezos will be asked about that diary Be specific and forced to explain what the company is doing.
There are similar sores for almost every company that shows up. Apple faces active antitrust inquiries in both the U.S. and the EU regarding its App Store policies, particularly the flat-rate cut of 30 percent the company charges for fees paid through the store. Cicilline said last month The edge that the fees Apple charges are equivalent to a “freeway robbery.” Google will likely be asked to address its dominance as a search engine, while lawmakers Zuckerberg will likely investigate on Facebook’s history of problematic acquisitions, including Instagram, that have largely avoided regulatory control.
As Democrats push the cartel case ahead, Republicans have their own concerns and could try to direct Wednesday’s talk towards content moderation and allegations of conservative bias. MP Matt Gaetz (R-FL) sits on the subcommittee and has distinguished himself as an outstanding voice in the Republican struggle against biased platform moderation. Gaetz has already filed a criminal transfer against Zuckerberg for allegedly making false statements to Congress in previous hearings. Companies could also try to learn about Chinese apps like TikTok and how new competition rules could make the US less competitive with Chinese products.
But Democrats are likely to try to avoid this bypass by focusing on how these companies potentially suppress competition by copying and acquiring competitors to destroy them. And with so many large corporations in the hot seat at the same time, advanced lawmakers see this as an opportunity to show that anti-competitive behavior is an industry-wide pattern, not just the result of individual bad behavior.
“There are some common patterns and I hope we can show them in all companies,” said Jayapal The edge. “The behavioral patterns should dominate and use this dominance to set the rules so that other competitors cannot succeed.”
Apple, Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comments. Amazon declined to comment.
While Wednesday’s hearing ends the judicial committee’s investigation into big tech, this is just the beginning of future regulatory or legislative action. What the executives say during the hearing could provide evidence of a new antitrust investigation into law enforcement agencies or could provide the basis for Congress to legislate on industry regulation. For experts like Dipayan Ghosh, a former Facebook employee and Pozen Fellow who is researching the technology industry at Harvard Kennedy School, the hearing on Wednesday only means the end of the evidence gathering.
“This is the starting point. This cannot be the end point because if it were, I would assume that nothing will happen in the future if this is the end, ”said Ghosh The edge.
This is a big pressure on legislators, but if done well, the hearing could usher in a new era of antitrust regulation in the technology sector. After months of interviews and document requests, legislators and regulators finally have the opportunity to get direct answers from all the big companies at once. It has taken a lot of work to get these four CEOs on the same board at the same time, and it is unlikely that Congress will have another chance like this soon. Now it’s up to you to make it count.