AMAZON boss Jeff Bezos had his company compared to a “heroin dealer” during a historic anti-trust hearing today.
On Wednesday, Amazon boss Bezos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai of Alphabet Inc – Google‘s parent company – Apple‘s Tim Cook were accused of squeezing out competitors and small businesses.
The four witnesses are sworn in via video link [/caption]
Bezos denied bulling sellers after their relationship with Amazon was likened to a ‘heroin dealer’[/caption]
Zuckerberg denied cloning and copying other company’s features[/caption]
The highly successful tech moguls were all sworn in to address lawmakers at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC.
Congressman David N. Cicilline said small businesses the committee had spoken to compared their relationship with Amazon to that of heroin pusher or “drug dealer.”
“[Amazon is] exploiting its monopoly power,”Cicilline said. “It’s dual role [with sellers]… is fundamentally uncompetitive.”
Likewise, Zuckerberg was grilled by Rep Pramila Jayapal about whether he had threatened competitors like Instagram founder Kevin Systrom and Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel about their product’s features.
Jayapal recounted for her fellow lawmakers how Systrom felt Zuckerberg would go into “destroy mode” if he refused to sell Instagram.
When she directly asked the tech mogul if his company ever copied features from other organizations, his answer was vague.
“We’ve certainly adapted features … as have others,” he said, before denying that Facebook had threatened to clone a competitor while trying to buy it.
“Not that I recall,” he added as Jayapal reminded Zuckerberg that he was “under oath.”
The congresswoman also referenced a 2012 email wherein Zuckerberg noted that it would be a “while before we can buy Google.”
“[You’ve] used Facebook’s power to threaten smaller competitors and to ensure you always get your way,” Jayapal declared.
Earlier, Rep Neguse asked Zuckerberg whether he has a monopoly, which he denied.
“Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram are the most downloaded apps of the last decade,” the congressman noted.
“Your company, sir, owns them all. We have a word for that. That word is monopoly.”
Zuckerberg, Bezos, Cook, and Pichai were all asked to swear an oath not to use slave labor in their respective companies during the lengthy hearing.
Bezos launched into his testimony first shortly after 1.30 pm, followed by Pichai, Cook, and Zuckerberg – who described Facebook repeatedly as an “American success story.”
All three of the businessmen emphasized the innovation of their respective companies and the significant job creation while bring grilled by Committee members.
Rep Raskin asked Zuckerberg about election interference on Facebook, fake profile pages, and “alt-right racist” content.
Zuckerberg said their AI systems aim to identify this “with the goal of getting this stuff down before people even see it.”
Speaking about their 6.5 billion fake accounts, Zuckerberg said they try to remove billions of accounts every year – a small amount of these are “nation states” trying to interfere, he said.
Rep Sensebrenner also raised the issue of Trump promoting hydroxychloroquine during the hearing.
“We do not prohibit discussion about trials of drugs,” Zuckerberg said. “But if somebody is going to say it’s proven when it’s not…”
After a brief recess due to tech issues, the committee resumed and Jayapal grilled Bezos about Amazon using sellers’ data.
She asked him about whether the policy against using seller specific data was really enforced after employers claimed it was “like a candy shop.”
“The fact that we have such a policy is voluntary I don’t think any other realtor has such a policy,” Bezos said, after saying he “can’t answer that question [with a] yes or no” when it came to violations.
Rep McBath concluded her address to Bezos asking if Amazon used “bullying, fear and panic” to control their sellers.
She played a recording to one book seller begging Bezos to “get back on track.”
Pichai was the first to be grilled by Cicilline, who said small businesses had accused Google of stealing content.
He also queried why Google shows what ever is profitable rather than relevant when users are looking for something.
“I disagree with that characterizations,” Pichai responded, citing the 1.4 million small businesses they assist.
Cicilline also accused Google of stealing content from Yelp, describing it as “anti-competitive.”
“Google is increasingly a walled garden that keeps users on its own sits,” Cicilline said. “Virtually ensuring that any business that wants to be seen on the web, has to pay Google a tax.”
Congressman Gaetz also threw a series of China-related questions at Pichai, who denied Google was in cahoots with the communist country.
Gaetz cited claims that his company was “directly aiding the Chinese military” via their AI Center and working with universities.
Pichai denied these claims.
Rep Jordan also expressed his concerns that Google would assist Joe Biden over Donald Trump come November and “electioneering.”
Pichai said they complied with laws in 2016 and that their work was non-partisan.
Lawmakers also quizzed Cook about claims that Apple changes the app rules as they go to benefit the phone giant at the expense of developers.
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“We treat every developer the same,” Cook insisted. “It’s a rigorous process … We do look at every app before it goes on.”
Cook said it wasn’t correct to say that some app developers were favored over others, however.
Just before 4.30 pm, the committee went on another recess.