The Mediterranean hearing was to focus on anti-competitive practices; Instead, there was a steady stream of questions about censorship, political favoritism, and spam e-mail.
The Mediterranean congressional hearing on potential antitrust practices between major technology companies – as testified by CEOs of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Alphabet, the parent company of Google – has been overlapped between the sharp and the utterly absurd; Frankly, the hearing has leaned more towards the other and does not seem to have a lasting impact.
Together, Mark Zuckerberg, Apple’s Tim Cook, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Sundar Pichai run Alphabet, which has a combined valuation of $ 4.85 trillion. There were relevant questions that asked how their businesses were working ̵1; and some were asked – but on several occasions the hearing turned into a farce; questions concerning censorship decisions taken by technical companies nor were they included in the hearing they were asked, while other times, deputies shouted at each other to wear their masks.
If you miss your hearing, don’t worry. Here are the seven moments that have stood out.
1. Censorship was a hot topic
The fourth hearing was nominally focused on the anti-competitive practices of the four technology giants. However, social media censorship, as some might have expected, remained a topic that several GOP congressmen preferred to discuss. But things didn’t start with a great start. At the beginning of the hearing, Deputy Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) Asked Zuckerberg why his company had withdrawn a recent contribution from Donald Trump Jr. about hydroxychloroquine. The problem, however, was that Sensenbrenner was talking about something Twitter had done, not Facebook.
“I think you could talk about what happened on Twitter,” Zuckerberg said.
In other points, Zuckerberg defended Facebook’s results on content censorship, stating that the company “distinguished itself as one of the companies that defends freedom of speech the most.” He added that Facebook is not interested in being “judges of the truth”, but that it continues to focus on eradicating hateful content.
The dividing line on Wednesday seemed to be Republicans worrying about Facebook, which fragmented the content too much, while Democrats like Dave Cicilline tore Facebook apart for not doing enough to censor hate speech.
2. It was easy for him – until he did
Amazon’s head honcha lasted almost two hours without asking a single question – a striking time that many Twitter users quickly pointed out. However, circumstances changed when the rep. Pramila Jayapal from the Amazon home state of Washington pushed Bezos on Amazon’s business practices. “I ask you, Mr. Bezos, does Amazon ever have access and use seller information in business decisions?” The Democrat asked.
Bezos said that Amazon politics forbids such a move, but that he “cannot guarantee” that it never happened.
Nesos then asked if Amazon had deliberately reduced the price of diapers to undermine Diapers.com; Representative Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Penn.) Said the documents showed that Amazon was willing to lose $ 200 million in selling cheap diapers to beat its competitor. Finally, Amazon bought Diapers.com in 2010 for $ 450 million. According to Scanlon, this step was an example of Amazon, which uses its weight to systematically eliminate opponents. Bezos said he disagreed with the assumption and that he didn’t remember much about the events that took place ten years ago. Both exchanges stood out as rare moments when the medieval hearing seemed to stick to the script.
3. Masks have become the new mouth
There were several test moments, including a case where Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) was told to put on a mask when he took advantage of an exception against Scanlon by pushing “marginal conspiracy theories” for censorship. See you with the kind permission of CBS News:
“Put on a mask!”
Screams erupted among members of the House subcommittee during a technical meeting after Deputy Mary Gay Scanlon suggested that Deputy Jim Jordan promote “marginal conspiracy theories” https://t.co/83sKht0bRx pic.twitter.com/E6fEZKT6tO.
– CBS News (@CBSNews) July 29, 2020
4. Zuckerberg prevents the acquisition of Instagram
Zuckerberg backed off in an animated way when House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said Facebook violated antitrust laws by acquiring Instagram for $ 1 billion in 2012. The move was not illegal, Zuckerberg said because Facebook and Instagram had time in terms of photo sharing applications; He also stressed that the Federal Trade Commission understood this when it approved the agreement. Zuckerberg acknowledged that the deal doesn’t look fair now, with Instagram having more than a billion users, but the platform’s success was no guarantee at the time.
“I think in retrospect, it probably looks obvious that Instagram would reach the level it has today, but at the time it was far from obvious,” Zuckerberg said.
Nadler doubled, saying that Zuckerberg’s Instagram was a threat to Facebook’s business, but only showed that it was a corrupt agreement.
“This is exactly the kind of anti-competitive acquisition that antitrust laws have been proposed for,” Nadler said. “It should never have happened in the first place, it should never have been allowed, and it can’t happen again.”
5. Pichai says that Google does not play political favorites
Despite concerns from many conservatives, Pichai said Google did not intentionally exclude conservative outlets from search results. Pichai added that Google is politically “neutral” and does nothing to unfairly push the stories in favor of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at the expense of President Trump. “We will not do any work to politically tilt anything one way or another,” Pichai said. “It’s against our core values.”
His comments come after Breitbart.com chief editor Alex Marlow told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who said his website had recorded since the 2016 election that its Google-recommended traffic had fallen off a cliff.
6. No slave labor
All four technical executioners undertook never to use slave labor to create their products in response to a question from Mr. Ken Buck of Colorado. “I would like to get involved with you in the legislation, Congressman. Let me make it clear: Forced labor is disgusting and we at Apple do not tolerate it, ”said Cook.
The question was not completely off the blue; Senator Josh Hawley’s office in R-Missouri recently said a number of global companies, including Nike, had been linked to slave labor camps for the Uighur ethnic minority in China. Given Apple’s close business relationship with China, as well as the alphabet’s connection with that country, it was a good idea to hear a joint response.
Cook – the man who runs the world’s most valuable company – finally had a quiet day. He defended the App Store on several different points, stating that the company could charge a 30% commission on all App Store sales, but as far as the app market (or any other market) is concerned, it is nowhere near a monopoly.
7. Email issues
One of the funniest moments – or a bigger waste of time, depending on your point of view – came when you rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) Asked Pichai a simple question: Why do his campaign emails go directly to the Gmail spam folder?
Steube feared that his parents and followers had trouble receiving campaign emails – and wondered if that had anything to do with Google’s anti-Republican bias. Pichai said that was certainly not the case, and that he limited himself to Gmail and preferred emails from accounts he knew were connected to friends and family.
The full question of Steube can be found here:
Rep. Steube complains to the CEO of Google about his campaign’s emails to Gmail’s spam boxes, claiming that this is only happening to Republicans. (No, almost every campaign addresses email delivery issues.) Pic.twitter.com/XH1floO9ff
– Tony Webster (@webster), July 29, 2020
The exchange was the microcosm of the day. The hearing did not only address issues that are not relevant to the subject matter, but also did not provide some useful details as to whether the four companies participated in anti-competitive practices. Don’t expect much to come on Wednesday.