The top executives of four of the biggest tech companies testified virtually before the U.S. Congress on Wednesday.
The House Judiciary Committee is investigating allegations that the big tech companies have unfairly stifled competition in digital markets, made too many acquisitions, and harmed consumers.
The chief executives of Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook were grilled for more than six hours by lawmakers on a wide range of issues, but they sought to defend their companies as success stories. The executives explained how their companies are benefiting consumers, but are also facing stiff competition at the same time.
Mark Zuckerberg was questioned about Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram, with members of the Congress arguing that the acquisitions were anti-competitive.
The Facebook CEO was also asked if he planned to make a clone of Instagram if the startup did not agree to an acquisition. Zuckerberg replied that while acquiring Instagram in 2012, it was far from certain at that time that the company would become a competitor.
Lawmakers accused Facebook of being too slow to remove misinformation on its platform, including conspiracy theories that the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax. Zuckerberg replied that his company is taking steps to remove inaccurate claims.
Jeff Bezos was asked whether Amazon uses data generated by third-party sellers who market their products through the Amazon Marketplace to compete against them. Bezos said that Amazon has a policy against using seller-specific data to aid its private label business, but he could not guarantee that that the policy has never been violated.
Tim Cook was questioned about Apple’s policies towards third-party app developers who have accused the company about not treating them fairly. When asked whether Apple entered into deal with Amazon to take lower fees, Cook said that any developer who meets the conditions for lower rates could get a similar deal.
Sundar Pichai was asked about Google’s core search business, including whether the tech giant stole content from other websites by leveraging its dominant search engine. Lawmakers also accused Google of manipulating results to guide users to its own digital services rather than third-party web sites.
Pichai replied that Google tries to provide the most relevant and helpful information to people who use its search engine.
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