Big Tech CEOs Bezos, Cook, others to appear before Congress

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Big Tech will be under the spotlight once again on Wednesday, as the CEOs of the largest companies in the industry will face a grilling before Congress.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Google parent company Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple chief Tim Cook are scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel this afternoon, with each executive prepared to defend their company from allegations by critics that they have hurt competitors and consumers with their business practices and seemingly insatiable appetite for data.

The CEOs — who together represent firms that make up $5 trillion of the US economy — will push back on claims of their dominance by saying they face intense competition.

The hearing will be the first time that Bezos, the world’s richest man with his fortune of more than $180 billion, has appeared before Congress. The e-commerce executive traditionally sends deputies out to bat for the company.

Bezos will be tasked with defending Amazon from claims that its marketplace is hostile toward third-party sellers. Of particular concern to lawmakers was a Wall Street Journal report from May which said Amazon copies popular items from third-party sellers to sell under one of its in-house brands.

The 56-year-old Bezos will use his opening remarks to argue that Amazon has a number of competitors, including Walmart, and that shoppers flock to Amazon because of its strong record of customer service.

“The range of retail competitors and related services is constantly changing, and the only real constant in retail is customers’ desire for lower prices, better selection, and convenience,” Bezos’ statement reads.

Apple, meanwhile, will be answering questions about its App Store — the gateway through which all software that wants to make it onto an iPhone or iPad must pass. Apple has been accused of unfairly blocking apps that rival its in-house versions from appearing in App Store results, and has faced intense criticism for the 30 percent cut it takes from App Store purchases.

Mark Zuckerberg is expected to describe Facebook as an all-American company, a distinction the billionaire CEO will look to exploit as Beijing-based TikTok faces intense scrutiny over concerns that the data it has on users is collected by the Chinese government. Zuckerberg has a rooting interest in TikTok’s demise, as Instagram is in the process of rolling out its own TikTok clone called Reels.

He will also defend Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp amid accusations that the company has a monopoly over social media and should be broken up.

Alphabet, meanwhile, has dispatched Pichai to defend Google’s dominant ads business, which he will frame as being in competition with the likes of Instagram and Twitter.

“Competition in ads — from Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Comcast and others — has helped lower online advertising costs by 40 percent over the last 10 years, with these savings passed down to consumers through lower prices,” Pichai’s statement reads.

The hearing will test lawmakers’ ability to ask questions that reflect an understanding of how Big Tech operates. Previous high-profile hearings involving tech companies have exposed the somewhat limited grasp of Washington politicians of how the internet and technology work.

It also promises to be a highly partisan affair, with Republicans expected to double-down on accusations of anti-conservative bias by tech giants, according to a Politico report.

With Post Wires. 

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