- The much anticipated antitrust hearing on Wednesday with Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, and Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has officially come and gone.
- Now Congress will take into account the statements made during the hearing, as well as other meetings and hearings last year, as part of its online competition investigation.
- Legislators will also consider hundreds of thousands of corporate emails, memos, and other documents submitted to Congress as part of the investigation.
- Congress will publish a report in the coming weeks detailing the results of the investigation.
- The report could be another step towards eventually creating new antitrust laws or revising the original ones, which better apply to 21st century big tech and could keep the industry in check more efficiently.
- You can find more stories on the Business Insider homepage.
The almost six-hour hearing on antitrust law on Wednesday was quite a spectacle.
The Republican legislature took the opportunity to question executives about anti-conservative prejudices that they say are widespread on the online platforms. One of them, Rep. Jim Jordan, asked the CEOs what they thought of the demolition culture. Some members of the subcommittee mispronounced the name of Google CEO Sundar Pichai (peek-eye). Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos forgot to unmute before speaking at one point and took a snack or two breaks.
Though eagerly awaited and filled with stars, the big tech hearing on Wednesday was only part of an ongoing congress investigation into competition in the digital market. And some of the most striking revelations have so far come not from the CEO survey, but from the hundreds of thousands of corporate emails and other documents collected by Congress.
As Business Insider reported, the unguarded discussions among business leaders in the emails reveal a pattern of cutthroat actions to wipe out or overtake emerging rivals.
Now it's up to members of Congress to roll up their sleeves and, considering the treasure of email, the CEO's responses to Wednesday's hearing and the hundreds of hours of other meetings and hearings, reach agreement on which ground rules are prepared for the new generation of company juggernauts who control powerful and limitless digital platforms.
The anti-trust subcommittee is expected to publish a report on its investigation in the coming weeks. The ultimate goal is to create new laws or approve revisions to the original centuries-old laws that are better tailored to 21st century technology companies. The applicable laws are not updated to apply to the modern technology business. For example, anti-competitive US laws must show that consumers are harmed, and this is more difficult in big tech than in other industries like oil in the past.
David Cicilline, chairman of the Cartel Subcommittee of the House Justice, said in his final statement on Wednesday: "This hearing made it clear to me one fact: these companies, as they exist today, have monopoly powers. Some must be dissolved. All must be regulated and to be held accountable. "
However, blanket regulation may not be feasible because each of the four companies has different concerns about competition. Amazon is being investigated primarily for claims that it grants special treatment to its own brands vis-à-vis third parties. Google is being checked for its dominance in digital ads. Facebook is in the spotlight to attract potential competitors like WhatsApp and Instagram. And lawmakers are examining the commission rates in Apple's app store and whether they hurt developers or not.
Congress should not only lay the foundations for better antitrust regulation in the technology world, but also design it so that it encompasses a broad spectrum of anti-competitive business practices. This will not be easy, but the hearing and the forthcoming report from the Subcommittee on Antitrust Law are a step in that direction.
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