Lawmakers, United in Their Ire, Lash Out at Big Tech’s Leaders

The chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook -- four tech giants worth nearly $5 trillion combined -- faced withering questions from Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike for the tactics and market dominance that had made their enterprises successful. For more than five hours, the 15 members of an antitrust panel in the House lobbed questions and repeatedly interrupted and talked over Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sundar Pichai of Google. It was the first congressional hearing for some time where Democrats and Republicans acted as if they had a common foe, though for different reasons. Democratic lawmakers criticized the tech companies for buying start-ups to stifle them and for unfairly using their data hoards to clone and kill off competitors, while Republicans questioned whether the platforms had muzzled conservative viewpoints and were unpatriotic.

  • Pichai was repeatedly asked about Google’s dominance in search and how the company was potentially trying to keep users within “a walled garden.” He said Google had many competitors for specific categories of search, such as shopping.
  • Zuckerberg was asked about Facebook emails where executives discussed the company’s 2012 acquisition of Instagram as a possible strategy to take out a nascent competitor. Zuckerberg said that, in fact, Instagram’s success had never been guaranteed and was the result of Facebook’s investment in the product.
  • When lawmakers asked Bezos if Amazon had bullied small merchants, he said that it was “not how we operate the business” — before being confronted by an audio recording of a bookseller begging him directly for relief.
  • In response to questions about whether Apple favored some app developers over others, Cook said there were “open and transparent rules” that applied “evenly to everyone.”

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