WASHINGTON: Google and Facebook took the sharpest jabs for alleged abuse of their market power from Democrats and Republicans yesterday in a much-anticipated congressional hearing with four of America’s most prominent tech CEOs in the hot seat.
Facebook Inc’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon.com Inc’s Jeff Bezos, Alphabet Inc-owned Google’s Sundar Pichai and Apple Inc’s Tim Cook – whose companies together represent about $5 trillion of market value – parried a range of accusations from lawmakers via videoconference before the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel.
US Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat and chair of the antitrust subcommittee, began by accusing Google of theft.
“Why does Google steal content from honest businesses?” he asked.
Cicilline accused Google of stealing reviews from the company Yelp Inc and said that Google threatened to delist the company from search results if it objected.
Pichai responded mildly that he would want to know the specifics of the accusation. “We conduct ourselves to the highest standards,” he added, disagreeing with the characterization that Google steals content from other businesses to populate its search engine and keep users on its own services.
Facebook’s Zuckerberg took a series of questions about the company’s purchase of Instagram in 2012, and whether it was acquired because it was a threat. Zuckerberg responded that the deal had been reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission and that Instagram at the time was a tiny photo-sharing app rather than a social-media phenomenon.
The hearing marks the first time the four CEOs have appeared together before lawmakers, and was also the first-ever appearance of Bezos before Congress.