In an unprecedented move, CEOs from Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have agreed to participate in a House Judiciary Committee.
Apple CEO Tim Cook was the last to give his consent to testify after the leaders of Facebook and Google agreed to come forward if the other members of the big four did too. According to reports, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has also agreed to participate after a letter was sent to the House Judiciary. It is the first time that all four will testify in such a way, and the hearing is likely to take place in late July.
The news follows confirmation in June 2019 that the committee was launching an antitrust investigation into the four companies. The investigation centers around accusations that the disproportionate power that these companies have in the digital market is undermining healthy competition in the sector.
While the action is not to be a move at enforcement, Federal and State interventions may be. The Justice Department is currently considering a lawsuit against Google due to anti-competitive behavior and Facebook is being scrutinised by the Federal Trade Commission.
The scrutiny is expected to bring about the first major overhaul of government antitrust legislation in decades. House Representative David Cicilline commented that the digital market is “not functioning properly, that there’s not robust competition there.”
The move marks a major bipartisan effort by the two parties in the Judiciary, however, some Republican members are seen to be derailing it. In a letter to committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, they wrote they: “will not participate in an investigation with preconceived conclusions that America’s large tech companies are inherently bad, cannot be allowed to exist in society, and must be broken up.”
Each party has its own issue with the tech giants. Republicans accuse them of anti-conservative bias; emboldened by Trump’s executive orders potentially stripping the companies of their liability protection due to the way they moderate content. The Democrats, however, feel that the digital behemoths must do more to combat hate speech, especially in light of the recent protests.
It remains to be seen to what extent the committee’s decisions will impact the companies, but it is unlikely the digital marketplace as we know it will ever be the same.
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