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Top 4 U.S. tech powerhouses are grilled on their market monopoly

Top 4 U.S. tech powerhouses are grilled on their market monopoly

Posted July. 31, 2020 07:31,   

Updated July. 31, 2020 07:31


CEOs of the four largest U.S. tech firms - Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook - testified in front of the U.S. House of Representatives. With it being a video conferencing hearing, this was the first-ever instance where leaders of the four emperors in the tech industry appeared on Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers grilled the four tech giants over their excessive market power that only dampens the U.S. economy at the U.S. House of Representatives' Antitrust Subcommittee on Wednesday afternoon (local time). House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline opened the hearing, saying, “Our founders would not bow before a king. Nor should we bow before the emperors of the online economy.”

Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler (D-NY) harshly criticized Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's acquisition of Instagram as an infringement of the Antitrust Law. Democrat Lucy McBath questioned Apple's elimination of applications developed by its competitors.

In response, the four CEOs denied their allegations about illegal business practices, explaining that they are faced with cutthroat competition.

Apple CEO Tim Cook referred to Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and Huawei, arguing that the global smartphone market is getting more heated with competition. Google CEO Sundar Pichai replied, “For example, competition in ads—from Twitter, Instagram, Comcast and others—has helped lower online advertising costs by 40 percent over the last 10 years, with these saving passed down to consumers through lower prices.”

Zuckerberg of Facebook shed light on the issue from a patriotic viewpoint, saying, "Facebook is a proudly American company. We believe in values—democracy, competition, inclusion and free expression‎—that the American economy was built on.” By comparison, he added, “For example, China is building its own version of the internet focused on very different ideas, and they are exporting their vision to other countries,” implying that pressure on U.S. companies will only benefit Chinese rivals.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos submitted a written testimony to include descriptions on his poor childhood when he was raised by a single mother who had a baby at the age of 17 and a Cuban-born stepfather. He intended to win over the hearts of lawmakers by projecting himself as living proof of the American Dream.

Nevertheless, Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-RI1) said at the closing speech that the four businesses turned out to wield monopolistic power over the market, arguing that some of them should be divided into smaller units.

Apparently, the top four tech giants will find it hard to get out of the crisis. The U.S. Justice Department has carried out a thorough investigation on any violation of the Antitrust Law that major tech firms may make since last year. The results of the investigation may impose fines on violators or order a corporate division into small businesses. Prior to the public hearing on Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, “If Congress doesn’t bring fairness to Big Tech, which they should have done years ago, I will do it myself with Executive Orders.”

Jae-Dong Yu jarrett@donga.com