For 5.5 hours, Congress was grilling the GAFA bosses. Here s what we found out

Part of the hearing was a sheer political show-off, but the questions put to the bosses of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon - companies valued at nearly $ 5 trillion together - give a strong message. American legislators found hooks to accuse them of building monopolies.

It was a historic audition. For the first time since the 1970s, the heads of the largest companies were brought to Washington - though only remotely - to testify on antitrust issues. It is also the first time several heads of big tech companies have testified in Congress together. So far, only individual CEOs have been called. This was the case with Bill Gates, when he headed Microsoft or Mark Zuckerberg after the Cambride Analytica scandal.

This time, the entire Big Four appeared in front of the antitrust subcommittee, which is part of the House of Representatives' justice committee: Tim Cook - Apple's president, Mark Zuckerberg - head and creator of Facebook, Sundar Pichai - president of the entire Alphabet, which Google belongs to and Jeff Bezos, the father of Amazon. Congress lawyers managed to get the latter to appear in person for the first time .

Congress refuses to bow to the emperors of the internet

The hearing was the culmination of the investigation conducted for over a year in order to investigate the domination of these companies in the world of network businesses. The commission has already collected 1.3 million documents, including a lot of internal documentation, and has conducted hundreds of hours of interviews.

From the first minutes of the hearing, when commission chairman David Cicilline began to speak belligerently, it was heard that Congressmen had a plan to go into a sharp fight with the so-called GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon), a symbol of large digital platforms.

- Our founding fathers did not bow to kings. So we should not bow to the emperors of the Internet economy, announced the Rhode Island Democrat.

Republicans did not focus on the antitrust allegations, instead shifting the discussion to the alleged anti-conservative stance of the platforms and accusing companies of silencing conservative votes and supporting Democratic Party candidates in the elections. Anyway, they were doing it very ineptly. When Republican Jim Sensenbrenner tried to pressure Mark Zuckerberg on why Donald Trump Jr. was removed from the platform, the head of Facebook very politely explained that it was Twitter that restricted Trump's account.

What was GAFA drawn?

But there was also some very specific and heavily documented evidence against Big Tech in the hearing. Here are the most important of them.

Google was accused of taking content from small business websites and placing it on its own.

Sundar Pichai had a clear problem responding to the allegation that his company did so with Yelp reviews. When Yelp asked Google to stop these practices, the giant reportedly threatened to remove Yelp from its search list entirely.

An even stronger blow to the company led by Pichai came from the evidence pulled by Congresswoman Val Demings in Florida. Demings started inquiring about the 2007 story when Google acquired DoubleClick, then the largest digital advertising platform on the publisher side. Back then, Google promised that it would never combine its own user data with DoubleClick data. However, in 2016, the company dropped that promise, which, according to Demings, "substantially destroyed online anonymity." - What changed between 2007 and 2016 is the fact that Google has gained such a huge market power that it does not have to care about user privacy anymore - the congresswoman assessed.

Facebook was pulled out of buying Instagram in 2012.

Zuckerberg was pressed against internal company documents, which revealed that Facebook had bought Instagram to neutralize it as a threat. Among the documents were emails in which Zuckerberg openly discussed buying Instagram and WhatsApp so that they would not negatively affect Facebook's business. - An important issue with start-ups is that they can often be purchased - Zuckerberg wrote quite dispassionately in 2012.

Congressman Jerry Nadler called this action "exactly the type of anti-competitive takeover that antitrust laws were intended to prevent."

The strongest accusations were directed at Amazon.

They concerned a case from 2009. The commission has internal e-mails from the company that show that Jeff Bezos's company then began selling diapers at a below-favorable price. It did this to hinder the rival platform and force the smaller player to accept the acquisition. After that, Amazon raised diaper prices again. Documents revealed that the company spent $ 200 million in implementing this strategy.

Bezos was also heavily pressed for the bad treatment of external sellers on the platform. Washington-based Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal got an admission from the Amazon CEO that she could not guarantee that his company had not violated its own policy prohibiting the use of third party vendor data to advertise and sell private label products.

Apple was pressed for the apprenticeship in AppStor.

Apple was the most grilled by Congressman Hank Johnson from Georgia, who revealed that the investigation confirmed concerns that the rules governing the app review and approval process in the App Store are not available to app developers. "Policies are made on an ongoing basis and are subject to change - and Apple expects developers to adapt to the changes or to leave the App Store." Cook defended the store against allegations of monopoly on the argument that his company did not charge placement fees as much as 84 percent. application.

Monopoly loopholes

The subcommittee was able to identify several clear cases where four companies bought out competitors to become stronger or discriminated against rivals on their own platforms. This is what Congress is all about. This is also about the report, which is to be published soon from this investigation, and may be the basis for taking any further steps in relation to big digital players.

These are not mere threats. Zuckerberg, regarding the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, was reminded that the so-called the Clayton Act of ... 1914 This major federal anti-monopoly law, though more than a century old, still explicitly prohibits corporate takeovers where "the effect of doing so is likely to be a significant reduction in competition or an inclination to create a monopoly."

Why was this questioning so important ? It clearly shows that the American legislators did a good job of their homework. Because it was not the scuffles over censorship and the fight against disinformation that were crucial. The whole gameplay is whether you can find evidence that the largest Silicon Valley companies actually built monopolies.

For years, this very concept was difficult for Americans to understand. After all, the services offered by GAFA are either free, or - as in the case of Amazon - legendarily cheap, or they have large and ambitious competition, as in the case of Apple.

Issues like the DoubleClick and cases show that subcommittee members have identified a major loophole: Big Tech monopolies do not necessarily lead to higher prices. However, they can bear fruit of lower quality. This lower quality is less choice or privacy protection.

Not only the fight against monopolies

However, there is no need to cheat yourself. The hearings weren't just strictly legal scuffles. Nevertheless, it was important to prove that Congress did understand and appreciate technology regulation issues. On the one hand, there is President Donald Trump, who is threatening Big Techom for blocking content and fighting disinformation, of which - well - he himself falls victim . Trump has threatened more than once that if Congress does not act actively, it will take matters into its own hands, whatever that means.

On the other side are US citizens who do not necessarily understand legal hair-splitting. For few, the fact that Instagram belongs to Facebook can be a real problem. Hence all the side questions. Conservatives inquiring about politically motivated censorship and democrats investigating consumer topics, such as micro-targeting children on YouTube or selling fakes by Amazon.

But much more important than them were other, not entirely related to the main topic, questions. Concerning China.

Chinese razor

Florida Republican Matt Gaetz asked Pichai why Google, the American company, does not support the American military, but does support Chinese projects, including work on a local fighter plane? The subject was also investigated by his Colorado party colleague Ken Buck, who wanted to know why Google withdrew from work on the military JEDI project under the pressure of Google employees themselves, for whom the action was "inconsistent with the company's values"? At the same time, Google is trying to develop business in China, and is China's actions in line with these values?

The head of Google, in response to both questions, assured that his company is not working on the fighter and added that work on AI in China is "very limited", and Google does not offer most of its services in China.

Mark Zuckerberg grilled for monopolistic activities politely reminded that there is a lot of competition on the market, for example the Chinese TikTok.

Finally, at the very end of the hearing, Republican Greg Steube asked a question to all four CEOs: is the Chinese government stealing technology from American companies?

Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai said they had no knowledge that their companies had actually fallen victim to such theft. Jeff Bezos admits he is of course aware of the reports, but he has not personally experienced it. Mark Zuckerberg says, however, that there is evidence that this is the case.

These questions and this investigating of the Chinese question are much more important than you might think. Because it is precisely in the threat from China that the big players from Silicon Valley can seek help from possible regulatory attempts.

The heads of the largest technological players have been saying loudly for months that their weakening will in fact only benefit the growing competition from the Middle Kingdom. Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook and former Google president Eric Schmidt have already officially appeared with this message. Importantly, such arguments could reach Republicans and Trump himself. Because it is this political force that goes to the strongest clash with the People's Republic of China.

Will this strategy work, we will, of course, see when Congress completes its investigation and publishes a summary report?

Don't miss out on new texts. Follow Spider's Web on Google News .

For 5.5 hours, Congress was grilling the GAFA bosses. Here's what we found out


Popular posts from this blog

What is VoLTE and how can you activate it on your Xiaomi

So you can check the battery status of your Xiaomi smartphone and how many cycles you have performed

How to exit the FASTBOOT mode of your Xiaomi if you have entered accidentally

Does your Xiaomi charge slowly or intermittently? So you can fix it

Problems with Android Auto and your Xiaomi? So you can fix it

If your Xiaomi disconnects only from the WiFi it may be because of that MIUI setting

How to change the font in MIUI and thus further customize your Xiaomi: so you can change the type, color and size of the letters of MIUI

What is the Safe Mode of your Xiaomi, what is it for and how can you activate it

Improve and amplify the volume of your Xiaomi and / or headphones with these simple adjustments

How to activate the second space if your Xiaomi does not have this option