A historic antitrust hearing began early Wednesday afternoon, with CEOs of Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google Parents Alphabet appearing before a subcommittee of the house judiciary to defend their companies' business practices.

The hearing, which took place during the coronavirus outbreak, is the culmination of a 13-month investigation by a House antitrust subcommittee on the dominance of big tech. The four CEOs – Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, Jeff Bezos from Amazon, Tim Cook from Apple and Sundar Pichai from Alphabet – are speaking for the first time as a group before Congress, and Bezos is attending his first public hearing. A committee report summarizing the results of six hearings and more than 1.3 million documents has been postponed due to the pandemic, but is expected later this year.

In his opening speech, US Representative David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, expressed concerns that big tech could strengthen power even more than it did during the coronavirus pandemic as smaller companies struggled. He said it is important to face monopoly power so that other companies don't come under pressure.

"Our founders would not bow to a king, nor should we bow to the emperors of an online economy," said Cicilline, chair of the subcommittee.

Across the aisle, Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan raised concerns about the alleged anti-conservative bias of large technology platforms, including Twitter, which censored President Trump's tweets. "I'll get straight to the point," he said. "Big Tech is looking for conservatives."


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Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google are grilled by the congress

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An hour after the hearing, these different perspectives repeated when Republicans raised concerns about online censorship, particularly conservative voices, and when Democrats complained about possible monopolistic practices. The Republicans have repeatedly expressed their support for the business, saying that large and successful companies are not necessarily bad.

Bipartisanship – hard to come by in Washington – was clearly evident. Both Cicilline and Republican Ken Buck from Colorado accused Google of stealing digital content from smaller companies like Yelp and Genius. In the case of Yelp, Cicilline said Google threatened to delist it when Yelp raised concerns.

"The choice Google Yelp made was that we steal your content or effectively disappear from the website. Isn't that anti-competitive?" Cicilline asked in a pointed and haunting question.

Somewhat embarrassed, Pichai avoided a direct answer and said: "When I run the company, I really focus on giving users what they want. We behave at the highest level. We are happy to get involved, understand the details and answer Your questions further. "

While every CEO faces different concerns, their prepared opening speeches, which were released on Tuesday evening, offer strikingly similar defense mechanisms for their organizations. The CEOs said that their companies face many competitors, create American jobs, and benefit small businesses and consumers.

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In an unprecedented hearing during the corona virus, all four tech CEOs appeared for the event on Cisco Webex.

About the home judiciary

Bezos offered to defend massive companies, saying they were able to do large, complex tasks. "I don't care how good you are as an entrepreneur," he wrote, "you won't build a Boeing 787 with full fiber in your garage."

And despite Facebook's current dominance, Zuckerberg wrote that he expects another service to become more popular at some point. "I have long believed that the nature of our industry was that one day a product would replace Facebook," he said. "I want us to be the ones who build it, because if we don't, someone else will."

The event, which was postponed by about an hour because an earlier hearing lasted for a long time, is a rare public survey of Big Tech's most influential executives at a point of major upheaval. The pandemic has changed the number of Americans, forcing them to rely on businesses to work and shop from home, and to communicate with loved ones. The hearing is likely to affect Big Tech's ability to shape public opinion, an issue that has taken on new urgency with a controversial presidential election in about three months and ongoing protests against racial injustice.

The committee fears that the four companies have become so powerful that they can suppress competition and prevent innovation by buying or copying competitors. The committee could recommend new Big Tech regulations or, in an unlikely event, dissolve the companies.

The committee is not alone in its concerns. President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly claimed that Silicon Valley is suppressing conservative voices, tweeted that he would take measures to curb the power of big tech if Congress didn't.

"If Congress doesn't bring big tech fairness to what they should have done years ago, I'll do it myself with executive orders," Trump tweeted.

If Big Tech doesn't bring fairness to what they should have done years ago, I'll do it myself with Executive Orders. Washington has been TALKING AND NO MEASURES for years, and people in our country are fed up!

– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump), July 29, 2020

Trump has already issued an order that is widely targeting Twitter, which doesn't say at the hearing, and has threatened to ban TikTok, a popular Chinese video app. (On Wednesday, Steve Mnuchin, the finance minister, said TikTok has undergone a national security check.)

In any case, the power of the four companies, which together have a value of around $ 5 trillion, is enormous. Facebook, the world's largest social network, has approximately the same number of users as the population of the two largest countries, China and India combined. Amazon controls 38% of online sales in the United States, more than six times the size of Walmart, the closest competitor, to the US web business. Apple's App Store is the only way for most developers to transfer their software to the vast customer base of iPhone and iPad, and Apple is cutting off these installations. Google has a search lockout and processes about 90% of all web searches around the world.

The CEOs are expected to address separate antitrust concerns. With Facebook, the regulators are investigating the acquisitions of competitors like Instagram and WhatsApp. For Amazon, the congress has largely focused on the company's private label business, which sells Amazon brands for clothing, groceries, and diapers. Apple has taken a close look at the cut in software developers in its app store. For Google, regulators mainly focus on the search giant's dominance in digital advertising.

The technology leaders and their companies also represent amazing personal wealth. Bezos is the richest man in the world with an estimated net worth of $ 181 billion. Zuckerberg is the fourth richest at $ 86 billion. Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin spend $ 68 and $ 66 billion, respectively.

Here is the original story from CNET, as you can see the hearing:

The leaders of several of the largest technology companies in the United States are traveling to Congress to testify before the House's subcommittee on antitrust law on Wednesday. The appearance of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai as well as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg are planned.

The event was scheduled to start at 9:00 a.m.PT / 12:00 p.m. ET, but was postponed by one hour to 10:00 a.m.PT / 1:00 p.m. ET, according to the house justice. The Washington Post reported that the delay was caused by a prior hearing over time.

Shortly before the hearing began, President Trump, who had often complained about alleged anti-conservative prejudices on social media, spoke on Twitter and said, "If Congress doesn't bring big tech fairness to what they should have done." Years ago I will do it myself with executive orders. "

The hearing was already over postponed by two days so that Washington could mourn John Lewis, a democratic representative and civil rights activist who died of pancreatic cancer on July 17.

The hearing is about the "ongoing investigation of competition in the digital market" by the subcommittee. All companies have a significant impact on their markets and are reportedly pending an investigation by the Department of Justice or a coalition of attorneys general.

"Since last June, the subcommittee has been investigating the dominance of a small number of digital platforms and the adequacy and enforcement of existing antitrust laws," said Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Justice Committee, and David Cicilline, chairman of the antitrust law subcommittee .

"Given the central role these companies play in the lives of the American people, it is critical that their CEOs be available. As we said from the start, their testimony is critical to completing this investigation."

All four executives began drafting their respective antitrust defenses on Tuesday evening, each of which published their opening speech. You can Read the opening speech here.

Only a few hours until the hearing begins. So you can follow.

When is the hearing?

The hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, July 29, at 9:00 a.m. (local time), but was postponed by an hour. It is unclear how long the process will take.

Where does the hearing take place?

The hearing is currently scheduled to take place at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC.

Stay up to date. Get the latest technical stories from CNET News every weekday.

Will the managers appear in person?

At the announcement of the hearing, the attached press release indicated that "witnesses and members may appear virtually according to applicable house rules". Given the ongoing COVID-19 In the event of a pandemic, managers are expected to appear from a distance.

How can i watch

You can see it up here in this story. In addition, the House Justice will stream the hearing on its YouTube channel, and C-SPAN will broadcast the hearing on its cable channel. The Washington Post, which is owned by Bezos, is currently reporting on the event live on YouTube.

Why does it matter?

Regardless of what you do online, you are likely to be fairly severely affected by at least one or more of these companies.

Apple and Google operate and control the two most popular mobile operating systems in the world iOS & # 39; Apple's App Store and Android Google Play Store.

Logos from Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook

Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple face antitrust concerns.

Lionel Bonaventure / AFP via Getty Images

Apple has seen increasing antitrust concerns about its app store practices in recent months The European Union has recently launched an investigation into digital business and the The U.S. Department of Justice is said to have weighed similar measures.

Amazon has its mammoth e-commerce presence of the same name and manufactures its own goods, some of which compete with those of other sellers in its online shop. This potential additional data, which Amazon has access to, has come under fire after a Wall Street Journal report described in detail how Amazon used this data to set pricing, determine and decide which features to integrate, whether it was worthwhile to get involved in a product category.

After the journal story came out, the House asked Bezos to testify.

In addition to the country's most popular search engine and social network, Google and Facebook run the largest part of the digital advertising market.

Google was under Increased competition law control by states across the country over the advertising businessThe DOJ is expected to file a lawsuit this summer.

Facebook announced last year that the Federal Trade Commission had launched an investigation into the company's purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp and whether or not to suppress competition. Apart from the fact that Zuckerberg appeared before the congress, he and COO were Sheryl Sandberg could be dropped by the FTC as part of its investigation.

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