‘These companies as they exist today have monopoly power’

CEOs

After five-and-a-half hours of hearing from the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google in the US Congress, House Judiciary Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee Chair David Cicilline said the following:

“Many of the practices used by these companies have harmful economic effects. They discourage entrepreneurship, destroy jobs, hike costs, and degrade quality. Simply put: they have too much power,” he said.

“This hearing has made one fact clear to me: these companies as they exist today have monopoly power. Some need to be broken up, all need to be properly regulated and held accountable.

“We need to ensure the antitrust laws first written more than a century ago work in the digital age.”

US President Donald Trump, who has accused social networking companies of bias against him, issued a warning to the subcomittee before it heard any evidence from the CEOs.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google/Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai all defended their companies and their practices remotely amid intense grilling by lawmakers on Wednesday.

The CEOs showed data indicating how competitive the markets they exist in are, and the value of their innovation and essential services to consumers. They sometimes struggled to answer pointed questions about their business practices and were also confronted with a range of other concerns about alleged political bias, their effect on US democracy and their role in China, AP News reported.

“Many of the practices used by these companies have harmful economic effects. They discourage entrepreneurship, destroy jobs, hike costs, and degrade quality. Simply put: they have too much power,” Cicilline said.

Cicilline added that in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, “these giants stand to profit” and become even more powerful as millions shift more of their work and commerce online.

Donald Trump’s Justice Department has urged Congress to roll back long-held legal protections for online platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter. The proposed changes would strip some of the bedrock protections that have generally shielded the companies from legal responsibility for what people post on their platforms.

The four CEOs command technology corporations with millions or even billions of customers, and a combined value greater than the entire German economy. One of them, Jeff Bezos, is the world’s richest individual. Mark Zuckerberg is the fourth-ranked billionaire.

In its bipartisan investigation, the Judiciary subcommittee collected testimony from mid-level executives of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, competitors and legal experts, and pored over more than a million internal documents from the companies. The key question is whether existing competition policies and century-old antitrust laws are adequate for overseeing the four tech giants, or if new legislation and enforcement funding are needed.

Read the provided statements of the four CEOs

amazon_ceo_jeff_bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos gave testimony from his headquarters.

Jeff Bezos

Apple
Apple CEO Tim Cook at the virtual WWDC 2020 at the company’s headquarters. Photo: Apple Inc

Tim Cook

Alphabet
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai has reported a fourth quarter profit of US$10.67 billion. Photo: Wikipedia

Sundar Pichai

Facebook, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to front the European Parliament.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

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