The House of Representatives has been investigating possible abuses of a dominant position for a year.
“The GAFA are crushing their competitors and democracy”, hammered the Democrats; “the GAFA censor us”, raged the Republicans… The American elected officials gave free rein for 5 hours, Wednesday July 29, to years of frustration vis-à-vis the sprawling companies that dominate the global Internet. Sundar Pichai (Alphabet, parent company of Google), Tim Cook (Apple), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon), were auditioned by videoconference by the House of Representatives which is investigating possible abuse of a dominant position.
“They have too much power”, said David Cicilline, the chairman of the subcommittee on competition. And “they will definitely emerge (of the pandemic) even stronger and more powerful than before “. “If Congress doesn’t force ‘Big Techs’ to be fair, which they should have done years ago, I will do it myself with executive orders.”, threatened Donald Trump before the start of the session.
Democratic members have mainly focused on the business model of the tech giants. They have tried to prove that these groups use the mountains of personal data at their disposal and competitor acquisitions to illegally prevent any competitor from emerging, to the detriment of consumers, citizens, innovation and democracy.
“Google has become the portal for accessing the internet and is abusing its power”, David Cicillin argued after a series of questions to Sundar Pichai. “It has become a fenced garden, (…) which virtually ensures that any business that wants to be found online has to pay a tax to Google”. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the commission, for his part attacked Mark Zuckerberg in the area of acquisitions. “Facebook saw Instagram as a threat (…), so (…) they bought them up”, he accused.
Jeff Bezos, whose first appearance before a parliamentary committee, also took for his rank. “Amazon is only interested in exploiting its monopoly on online sales”said David Cicillin. “Its dual role of host and merchant on the same platform is fundamentally anti-competitive. Congress must take action.”
On the Republican side, Greg Steube asked Sundar Pichai about his campaign emails which “systematically arrive in spam folders”, sign, according to him, of a plot against the conservatives. With less than 100 days of the elections, many questions focused on social networks and their relationship to freedom of expression. “The Big Techs have opened up the hunt for conservatives, that’s a fact”, Jim Jordan, one of Donald Trump’s close allies, said, saying that the platforms were doing everything to silence Republicans.