The Antitrust Hearing

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The Antitrust Hearing

The Antitrust Hearing: Wednesday, the 29th of July, was historic. On this day, the House of Representative’s antitrust subcommittee summoned four of the tech world’s biggest figures. Google’s Sundar Pichai, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg were called to testify at this subcommittee. The tech giants were questioned on a variety of factors for more than five hours. This hearing is a noteworthy landmark in the long battle to rein in Silicon Valley.

Purpose of the hearing

The hearing was a culmination of a year-long investigation of the Committee regarding competition in the digital market place. The goal of this probe was to check if dominant tech companies have used their position to stifle competition unfairly. The combined market value of these tech giants is about $5 trillion.

The committee questioned Amazon CEO Bezos about the company using data about third-party sellers to kill small businesses. Questions regarding the availability of counterfeit products also arose. On the other hand, the Committee asked Apple’s Tim Cook about the commission it charges developers on the App store. Members asked Google CEO Pichai questions about Google’s dominance over the Internet. The politicians asked Pichai about how Google uses its user data, and whether it steals data from competing websites.

Additionally, the committee also asked the four companies if they felt that the Chinese government steals tech from US companies.

Facebook at the hearing

Apart from the three tech giants, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was also grilled about company practices. Members confronted and questioned the media giant about seemingly damaging internal emails among company executives. Zuckerberg seems to have taken the most damage, stumbling when confronted with the question of these emails.

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The Emails

Members of the committee released a slew of emails dating back to April 2012. These emails show Zuckerberg and a few other executives weighing the benefits of copying and iterating on smaller apps like Pinterest.

The members asked Zuckerberg a series of questions about the company’s purchase of Instagram in 2012. In one of the emails, Zuckerberg has admitted to the threat these businesses were posing to FaceBook. This was two months before the company purchased Instagram.

Another email, written on the day Facebook announced the Instagram acquisition, Zuckerberg accepted that Instagram was a threat to FaceBook and also admitted that he could acquire start-ups.

In another email, Zuckerberg also recounted having spent time with the founders of the Chinese social networking app Renren.  According to Zuckerberg, China normally cloned things quickly and built different products instead of focusing on one specific product. He admitted that the pace of the new start-ups has been fast and they were going about very slowly.

In another notable exchange, Representative Pramila Jayapal questioned Zuckerberg on whether Facebook ever copied competitors. She also asked him if FaceBook had threatened to clone any feature of their competitor.

The Result

Senior committee members have said that a detailed report with their findings and possible solutions will be published later this year.

Originally posted 2020-08-02 17:26:33.