Facing rising accusations of running monopolies, the CEOs of four of the world’s biggest tech firms are testifying before the Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee today, July 29.
The hearing is entitled “Online Platforms and Market Power, Part 6: Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.” It continues a lengthy series of investigations into the role these giant companies play.
All of these firms except for Facebook have market caps of over a trillion dollars. They also have faced long-standing accusations of muscling out competing businesses and misuse of customer data, prompting the question of whether they make their money by violating Google’s one-time credo of “Don’t be evil.”
Origin stories and plan to play patriotism
Per opening remarks released in advance of the hearing, the leaders of Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Alphabet seem to be convening around a narrative of U.S. tech giants making the internet more American.
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, told the story of coming to the U.S. from India for graduate school to be amazed at how many computers were available. He continued to list U.S. achievements in emerging technologies, but cautioned:
“Just as American leadership in these areas is not inevitable, we know Google’s continued success is not guaranteed. Google operates in highly competitive and dynamic global markets, in which prices are free or falling, and products are constantly improving.”
The richest person in the world, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, began his testimony by describing his mother’s struggle to finish high school as a single mother, before transitioning into portraying Amazon as an underdog success story. “Unlike many other countries around the world, this great nation we live in supports and does not stigmatize entrepreneurial risk-taking,” Bezos said.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who appeared before a different and extremely hostile congressional committee last Fall over the planned Libra stablecoin, also warned of foreign competition:
“Although people around the world use our products, Facebook is a proudly American company. We believe in values — democracy, competition, inclusion and free expression — that the American economy was built on. Many other tech companies share these values, but there’s no guarantee our values will win out. 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.”
Tim Cook was overall less poetic and briefer than his fellow witnesses, but did describe Apple as “a uniquely American company whose success is only possible in this country.”