Tech CEOs vs Congress (in under 8 minutes)

published on August 2, 2020

Do you swear or affirm under penalty of perjury that the testimony you're out to give is true and correct to the best of your knowledge information and belief so help you god yes yes let the record show the witnesses

Answered in the affirmative thank you and you may remain seated the ceos of america's biggest tech companies have officially been grilled

Jeff bezos sundar pachai mark zuckerberg and tim cook appeared in front of congress to face questions from the house judiciary antitrust subcommittee this has been in the works

For more than a year and the committee had just one thing in mind interrogating some of the biggest companies in america about just how much power they hold there were questions on everything from

Anti-competitive behavior and bullying tactics to censorship and american values but the ceos had just one message they're not too big our services are about connection

And our business model is advertising and we face intense competition in both many of our competitors have hundreds of millions or billions of users in many areas we're behind our competitors

But the committee wasn't willing to let these four men off too easy and they came prepared with plenty of emails and testimony from small businesses that claim they're being squeezed out

The hearing got pretty fiery and not just with the ceos you do not have the time please be respectful of yourself put your mask on put your mask on now i'm gonna break down six hours of

Testimony for you in just a couple of minutes starting with amazon now it was jeff bezos's first appearance in front of congress and they didn't go too easy on him he was grilled about how amazon promotes

Its own products through alexa speakers about whether it prevents competing streaming services from living on its fire devices and the big one whether amazon scrapes data from third-party sellers to release

Competing products on the amazon marketplace at one point the chair of the subcommittee said that amazon has become so big that third-party sellers describe it as a drug

And in the past for lack of a better term we called it amazon heroin because you just kept going and you had to get your next fix your next check but at the end of the day you find out

That this person who was seemingly benefiting you making you feel good was just ultimately going to be your downfall end quote so mr bezos this is one of your partners

Why on earth would they compare your company to a drug dealer sir i have great respect for you in this committee um but i completely disagree with that characterization bezos argued that

Amazon actually started out only selling its own products and it let third-party sellers onto the amazon store actually increasing competition but as for whether it scrapes data from those

Third-party sellers and we continue to look into that very carefully i'm not yet satisfied that we've gotten to the bottom of it and we're going to keep looking at it okay next up google ceo sundar pachai

Faced questions about the company's relationship with china and whether google suppresses conservative voices mr uh pachai is google going to tailor its features to help joe biden in the

2020 election congressman we approach our work uh you know we support both campaigns today we think political ads is an important part of free speech in democratic societies and

We engage with uh campaigns uh you know according to law and we approach our work in a non-partisan way but it wasn't just questions around politics

Google's big showdown was around advertising and search google owns a massive proportion of the digital advertising space and congress members wanted to know whether it should have that much power

So say in seattle d's electronics a mom-and-pop business wants to buy online ad space in the seattle times these electronics would need to go to a middleman like google ads which would then bid for ad space on an

Ad exchange the problem is that google controls all of these entities so it's running the marketplace it's acting on the buy side and it's acting on the sell side at

The same time which is a major conflict of interest this won't be the last we hear on this topic the us department of justice is already investigating google's digital advertising business

And it's expected to file a lawsuit against the company this summer okay facebook now mark zuckerberg was talking about how much competition the company has but facebook has roughly the same number

Of users as the population of the world's two largest countries combined and the house committee members had some big questions about how facebook wields that power especially

When it comes to deciding what is and isn't allowed on the platform it was reported that donald trump jr got taken down for a period of time because he put something up on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine

Why did that happen congressman well first to be clear i think what you might be referring to happened on on twitter so it's hard for me to speak to that but i can talk to our policies about this

We do prohibit content that will lead to imminent risk of harm and stating that there's a proven cure for kovid when there is in fact none might encourage someone to go take something that could have some adverse

Effects so we do take that down but it wasn't just about free speech versus misinformation zuck was also grilled about the company's habit of releasing copycat products

To scare off its competitors did you ever use this very similar facebook camera product to threaten instagram's founder kevin systrom uh congresswoman i'm not sure what you

Would mean by threaten i think it was public that we were building a a camera app at the time um that was a well-documented thing let me tell you that mr in a chat you told mr seistrom that facebook was quote

Developing our own photo strategy so how we engage now will also determine how much were partners versus competitors down the line were there any other companies that you uh use the same

Tactic with while attempting to buy them congresswoman i want to respectfully disagree with the characterization i think it was it was clear that this was a space that we were going to

Compete in one way or another i don't view those conversations as a threat in any way and finally apple after a flurry of early questions ceo tim cook kind of flew under the radar but he was

Quizzed about the power of the app store and just how much of a cut apple takes from its developers the big question whether apple blocks third-party apps that compete with its own products

Like say screen time management apps that reportedly disappeared from the app store after apple launched its own screen time app does apple have the power to exclude

Apps from the app store if you look at the history of this congresswoman we've increased the number of apps from 500 to 17 million so there's a very uh wide gate for the

App store and there's fierce competition for developers and we want every app we can on the platform there was a lot that went down and plenty of answers were met with a

Can we get back to you on that one guys so this definitely isn't the last we've heard about these anti-trust issues but as always here at cnet we'll be ready to explain them for you even if it means sitting through hours

And hours of congressional hearings

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