Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger, the US antitrust committee chair said Wednesday. The statement was part of a historical hearing that featured the chief execs of the US tech giants.
“Simply put, they have too much power,” said US Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline in the opening remarks.
“Whether it’s through self-preferencing, predatory pricing, or requiring users to buy additional products, the dominant platforms have wielded their power in destructive, harmful ways in order to expand.”
“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, these corporations already stood out as titans in our economy. In the wake of COVID-19, however, they are likely to emerge stronger and more powerful than ever before,” Cicilline said.
Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner said in a milder tone that being big and successful is not bad.
“Quite the opposite, in America you should be rewarded for success,” Sensenbrenner added.
The record appearance before the House Judiciary subcommittee featured Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai.
The congressional hearing was part of an investigation into the antitrust law and competitive market.
As it progresses, the questioning will likely swing to areas like content moderation and hate speech. It may also cover economic inequality, data protection, privacy, and political bias from President Donald Trump and his allies.
Before the opening remarks, the chief execs offered a positive assessment of their firms. They emphasized their core values. And they underlined how Americans have benefitted from them.
In his first congressional hearing, Bezos shared his modest upbringing and initial backing from his parents. He “walked away from a steady job into a Seattle garage” to start Amazon. Now, he is the world’s richest person.
Cook said Apple is a distinct American firm whose success is only possible in the US. It is “motivated by the mission to put things into the world that enrich people’s lives,” he added.
Pichai said Google contributes products that help Americans in moments big and small, “whether they are looking for a faster route home, learning how to cook a new dish on YouTube, or growing a small business.”
Zuckerberg called Facebook a “proudly American company.” Its success “would not have been possible without US laws that encourage competition and innovation,” he added.
Hours before the hearing, viral short-form video app TikTok charged Facebook of maligning attacks “disguised as patriotism” to crush its presence in the US.
TikTok head Kevin Mayer blogged that they welcome fair competition. He said “without TikTok, American advertisers would again be left with few choices.”
The congressional hearing is part of a probe into online platforms and their market influence. It comes on the heels of a series of antitrust investigations worldwide.
Existing US antitrust laws make it hard for regulators to hit firms for being dominant without harming consumers or abusing market power.
The investigation could blueprint new and improved antitrust laws in the digital era. It would need a key rewrite of the outdated competition rules.
The hearing could also open fresh insights on how Big Tech crush their competition through buyouts or copying rival products.