- Tech CEOs from Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook will appear before Congress in a first-of-its-kind hearing on Wednesday.
- They will testify as part of an antitrust investigation into the domination of digital platforms underway since last June. CEOs, who will likely appear remotely on video, will have to defend the growing power of their tech companies to skeptical lawmakers.
- Here’s why every CEO has been invited to appear, the types of questions they’ll likely be asked, and how the day might turn out.
- Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.
The CEOs of four tech giants will appear before Congress next week, where they will have to defend their company’s growing power to skeptical lawmakers.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Sundar Pichai of Alphabet, owner of Google and YouTube, will testify in an ongoing investigation by the subcommittee House judiciary antitrust over digital platform dominance.
Since June, the subcommittee has held hearings with smaller competitors, who have testified about the alleged monopoly practices of these giants. Now the four tech titans will appear together to answer questions based on the committee’s findings.
The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at noon (ET), sources told Axios, after being postponed from Monday due to a memorial to the late depicting John Lewis.
Due to the ongoing global pandemic, CEOs are expected to appear remotely via video calling software. Lawmakers are hoping the hearings will be completed in a day and, given the breadth of issues on the table, it will not be an easy task.
Here’s why every CEO has been invited to appear, the types of questions they’re likely to receive, and the issues for each company.
Google is currently the subject of multiple antitrust investigations by many state attorneys general, but Wednesday will be the first time since 2018 that we will see CEO Sundar Pichai appear before Congress.
Lawmakers will likely be focused on Google’s dominance in the search and advertising market, so expect them to poll Pichai on whether and how the company has kept a level playing field.
Bloomberg recently reported that Google’s search changes have made it more expensive for online businesses to reach customers – expect the committee to probe Google on these kinds of topics as it tries to unzip an extremely complex digital business.
Lawmakers may also wonder how Google’s digital advertising business has benefited from toxic content online. Likewise, they can also ask questions about hate speech on YouTube, although some of these topics may distract from antitrust issues.
Finally, it is possible that Google is asked about China. In fact, it was Rep. David Cicilline from Rhode Island who toasted Pichai on China in the 2018 hearing, and the topic came back recently with reports that the company is still trying to find ways in the market. .
Congress could also ask Google about the antitrust investigations it is currently facing in several different states. Earlier this month, Politico reported that California was preparing to launch its own investigation into the company, making it the 49th state to do so.
To date, Apple has been more successful in avoiding antitrust backlash than some of the other members of this list, but lawmakers are increasingly concerned that the company’s App Store – and its larger app ecosystem – may hurt consumers. developers.
Apple has restrictive rules for App Store developers, including a 15-30% tax on in-app purchases that third parties have long considered unfair, though Apple says this matches competitor prices. Spotify has been one of the loudest on the subject and last month Basecamp, developer of the Hey messaging app, also made its grievances public.
The App Store is Apple’s second-largest revenue generator after the iPhone, but Apple’s own apps are not subject to the same rules as third parties, and it has long been argued that this gives Apple a another unfair advantage over the competition.
One particularly murky area is Apple’s approval process for new apps, so expect lawmakers to try to probe some of the secret behind-the-scenes mechanisms.
How do we know Apple is taking this seriously? He recently commissioned a study defending the 30% reduction, which he says is similar to those charged by Google, Amazon and others. That may be true, but the committee is probably less interested in the comparable size of the revenue share and more interested in other ways Apple could hurt developers.
Facebook is likely to face scrutiny from its past acquisitions, which critics say Facebook has used as a tactic to neutralize competitive threats.
The company acquired Giphy earlier this year for $ 400 million, which raised an antitrust alarm – critics said Giphy’s reach on the web could help expand Facebook’s already massive ad tracking operation .
Facebook has purchased a large number of businesses, large and small, in the 16 years since its founding. Its acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp in 2012 and 2014, respectively, consolidated Facebook as a global tech giant. In 2013, Facebook bought Onavo Mobile, an app that uses AI to identify other businesses that might be making good purchases. (Facebook then shut down the app after controversy.)
The Federal Trade Commission is already investigating Facebook into its recent acquisitions.
Lawmakers are also likely to question Facebook’s measures to stop the spread of disinformation and hate speech on its platform, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic and in the run-up to the 2020 election. These questions dominated Zuckerberg’s latest congressional testimony, which was presented as a hearing on Facebook’s cryptocurrency business.
Facebook has faced prolonged backlash from Democrats for its refusal to verify President Donald Trump’s facts and campaign ads. Scientists and public health authorities have also denounced the spread of disinformation about COVID-19 on the platform.
Amazon has already come under intense scrutiny by antitrust regulators over the past year over its treatment of third-party companies that sell products through its website.
A Wall Street Journal investigation in April found that Amazon frequently used data gleaned from third-party sellers on its site to craft development plans for its own private label products – this revelation launched a massive antitrust investigation into the business in the EU.
More recently, dozens of investors and entrepreneurs told the Wall Street Journal that Amazon invested in their businesses, gaining access to proprietary information, before launching competitors. Many startups were crushed in the process and said they were unable to compete with Amazon once it launched its own service. Amazon has denied claims it used confidential information. “Any legitimate intellectual property dispute is properly resolved in court,” a spokesperson told Business Insider.
Amazon could also face more topical questions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused an unexpected increase in online orders and strained Amazon fulfillment centers.
The safety of Amazon warehouse workers has been a point of contention. Several workers went on strike earlier this year to protest working conditions, and several Amazon warehouse workers have since died from the coronavirus. Amazon insists it has provided plenty of protective gear and regularly cleaned its warehouses to reduce transmission.
Wednesday’s hearings will also mark CEO Jeff Bezos’ first testimony to Congress in the company’s history. His history of feuds with President Trump and ownership of the Washington Post may also be a matter of question.