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Big Tech tangles with Washington lawmakers in antitrust standoff


WASHINGTON: A highly anticipated Congressional hearing kicked off Wednesday afternoon with the CEOs of four of America’s largest technology firms in a confrontation that promises a healthy dose of political theater, while offering a window into thought. of lawmakers trying to control Big Tech.
Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook Inc, Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com Inc, Sundar Pichai of Google owned by Alphabet Inc and Tim Cook of Apple Inc, who together represent about $ 5 billion of the United States economy, are appearing by videoconference to the antitrust panel of the Judicial Committee of the Chamber.
President Donald Trump, who has clashed with several of the largest technology companies, threatened Wednesday to take action against them.
“If Congress does not bring justice to Big Tech, which they should have done years ago, I will do it myself with executive orders,” he said on Twitter.
The president did not elaborate on what the executive order would say, but has been irritated by tech companies, including Facebook and Twitter, which sometimes take action in their posts on topics like coronavirus treatments. He has also clashed with the Washington Post, owned by Bezos.
US Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat and chair of the antitrust subcommittee, also hit all four companies.
“They have too much power,” he said in opening remarks. “While these dominant companies are still able to produce some new and innovative products, their dominance is killing the small businesses, manufacturing, and overall dynamism that are the engines of the American economy.”
CEOs of Facebook and Apple have indicated they plan to use the spectrum of China’s competition to turn down lawmakers seeking to curb them.
Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline has been investigating critics’ allegations that companies have hurt their competitors and consumers with their apparently insatiable business practices and data appetite.
CEOs plan to defend themselves by saying they face competition and rejecting claims that they are dominant, leading to fears that the audience will shed little new information to hold companies accountable in the long term.
In his opening remarks, Zuckerberg will tell lawmakers that China is building its “own version of the Internet focused on very different ideas, and is exporting its vision to other countries.”
Apple’s Cook will point out that the “fiercely competitive” smartphone market includes China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, which has been a focus of considerable US national security concern.
The hearing marks the first time that the four CEOs have appeared before lawmakers together, and it will also be Bezos’ first appearance before Congress.
The hearing will also assess the ability of US lawmakers to ask one-off questions that reflect an understanding of how Big Tech operates. Previous high-profile hearings involving tech companies have exposed somewhat limited understanding by Washington politicians of how the Internet works. and technology.
It will also offer lawmakers on both sides the opportunity to tackle content censorship, an increasingly painful point for Republican lawmakers, who have complained of bias against conservatives in Big Tech companies.
A detailed report with antitrust charges against the four tech platforms and recommendations on how to tame their market power could be released in late summer or early fall by the committee, which has separately accumulated 1.3 million company documents, the officials said. principal advisers to the committee.

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