Tech CEOs Face Congressional Hearing over Anticompetitive Behavior

On Wednesday, lawmakers questioned four tech CEOs about the market power of their companies. The nearly six-hour hearing was conducted by the House Judiciary Committee as part of an investigation into the potential anticompetitive behavior of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Privacy, data, and political discrimination were among the topics brought to Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sundar Pichai. They gave their answers via video chat to the Committee through a host of interruptions and intermissions.

Amazon was questioned primarily about its use of third-party seller data. Critics have suspected that the company uses certain data to suppress competition and promote its own products. The states of Washington and California launched investigations into the way Amazon works with its third-party sellers. When asked about its practices, Bezos explained, “We have a policy against using seller-specific data to aid our private label business, but I can’t guarantee you that that policy has never been violated.”

Apple’s 30% tax on third-party app sellers was the subject of several questions from the Committee, who asked why the company does not face similar taxes even though it makes competing apps. The company also had to deny allegations that the App Store punishes its rivals. Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) asked why Apple removed OurPact, a parental control app, shortly before introducing Screen Time, a direct competitor. Cook explained that the company was concerned “about the privacy and security of kids. Out of the four CEOs, Cook received the fewest number of questions from the Committee.

Zuckerberg faced a number of questions about Facebook’s controversial billion-dollar acquisition of Instagram. When asked if the move was done purely to get rid of a competitor, he said, “I’ve been clear that Instagram was a competitor in the space of mobile photo-sharing…by having them join us, they certainly went from being a competitor in the space of being a mobile camera to an app that we could help grow and to help get more people to be able to use.”

Google received questions about its alleged privileging and suppression of search results, including politically conservative content. Pichai rejected these claims, stating that “There’s nothing in the algorithm that has anything to do with political ideology…We do get complaints across the aisle.” Pichai was also questioned about Google’s potentially anti-competitive domination of the web search and advertising marketplace, as well as its relationship with China.