CEOs of Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google eventually appeared before Congress to testify for the ongoing antitrust investigation. The six-hour hearing was interesting for many reasons: the historical value, the dominance of the companies present, and the audacity of lawmakers grilling. Of course, as expected, it also included many times when legislators were misinformed and misquoted their questions to the wrong companies.
All CEOs were questioned about the size of their companies and their dominant positions that allow them to dictate the market. Many of the questions were also related to censorship, buyout of competition, relationship with China and more. The legislators based their questions on interviews and 1.3 million documents related to these companies.
Mark Zuckerburg, CEO of Facebook, was questioned about his digital ‘land grab’ strategy, taking over companies like Instagram, which were once his competitors. An old 2012 email emphasized Mark’s fear that Instagram could harm his company because it continued to grow on an unprecedented scale. However, Mark claimed that his company competes fairly.
Facebook has also been accused of censoring conservative views, although the best-performing content on the social network comes from conservative sources and public figures. Mark even got a question about Twitter’s censorship, but he replied with his own company’s policies and what Facebook would do in the event of moderation for content spreading misinformation.
Mark also said Facebook cared about the boycott of advertisers, but the company cannot allow advertisers to dictate its policies.
Tim Cook received the fewest questions from all CEOs, but they were still cruel. He was amazed at the policies of the App Store. One of the questions was about the removal of parental control apps that were removed from the App Store in 2018, after Apple launched Screen Time. Cook said the removal was due to privacy concerns and that there is still a healthy, competitive market in the App Store for parental control tools.
Apple recently attempted to get a 30% commission on virtual lessons sold by Airbnb and ClassPass. The company is still negotiating the terms with these companies, but as of this writing, ClassPass had removed its virtual classes from the iPhone app due to the limitations of the App Store. Cook did not give a satisfactory answer, but claimed that the App Store policy applies to all developers and provides them with a level playing field, including Apple’s own apps.
As for Amazon’s 15% commission agreement and an email explaining the terms Eddy Cue, Tim Cook said every company could get the same deal with Apple. Cook explained the competitive market landscape as:
It’s so competitive that I would describe it as a street fight for market share in the smartphone business.
Cook was also asked about Baidu’s quick app review. Large companies are often followed quickly and receive dedicated account managers in support. This was also the case with Baidu’s app approval and integration within iOS as a search engine alternative to Google and Bing.
Documents from the hearing on “Online platforms and market power: examining the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google” pic.twitter.com/E8auYYSeMn
– House Judges Dems (@HouseJudiciary) July 29, 2020
Jeff Bezos was asked to explain the use of buyer’s data by Amazon to create the products won and the relationship with third-party sellers. Bezos explained that the company has a policy against such use of data, but does not guarantee that it cannot be misused by its employees.
Amazon’s dominant status has been repeatedly questioned by several legislators, and they have expressed the views of many third-party sellers to take a closer look at the company. Even AWS has been questioned whether data from the service is used to create its own competitors for services hosted on its cloud platform.
As for the delay in shipping non-essential items earlier this year, Bezos was asked if he prioritized Fire TV, Echo and Ring, Amazon’s own products, as essential items to take advantage of. He claimed that no such policy existed and that profit was not part of the business decision.
Sundar Pichai was questioned about Google’s search engine and its status as a gatekeeper to the Internet. The company has been accused of using web traffic through its search engine to crush competitors such as Yelp. Sundar Pichai gave a detailed answer that his search engine has a lot of competition in different categories. He gave examples of Amazon in stores and other social websites, and also claimed that most search results do not include ads. The company has also been accused of showing more search results from its own web properties and suppressing competition from its first page of search results.
Google has been accused of withdrawing from a Pentagon project and working with the Chinese military. Sundar denied these claims, explaining that Google still works with Pentagon for many projects.
Pichai also said Google supports 1.4 million small businesses that support more than $ 385 billion in trade.
A common thread between the answers of all these CEOs was that they are not as big as claimed, despite figures that show otherwise, such as Google Search’s market share of 92%. They also claimed they were good American success stories and often shifted debt to China as a threat.