Technology giants Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple have defended their companies before the U.S. Congressional Justice Committee in an appearance that is part of the ongoing investigation into whether they might be harming free competition.
It has been the head of the cartel of these great technologies that have had to sit on the bench to be questioned by this commission in a session that has been held virtually due to the crisis of the coronavirus.
Thus, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, Tim Cook, president of Apple, and Sundar Pichai, president of Google, have defended their businesses from these accusations.
They are the four most important executives of companies that dominate all aspects of digital life, from digital commerce to the digital identity of Internet users, which have become very powerful thanks to the size of their operations, and it is precisely this that concerns the Commission most.
Facebook - All eyes on Zuckerberg
Facebook has been the heart of the Internet since the Web 2.0 era, and with it still being qutie prevalant, the platform even has the power to sway elections.
The Commission was concerned about the company's dominance in the social sphere, especially after the acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram, and therefore the influence it has on public discourse in the United States. It is not surprising that this issue has come to light, as the US is preparing for an election in November.
Facebook has been heavily criticised for spreading false news and propaganda in recent times, and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has defended to the Commission the work being done on the social network. According to the executive, Facebook has implemented a series of measures precisely in view of the elections.
Zuckerberg also pointed out the threat posed by the rise of certain social networks of Chinese origin, referring, without mentioning the fashionable app, TikTok, which has managed to impose itself on the social network market, even dethroning, albeit somewhat, Instagram, especially among the younger public.
The founder of Facebook has also called on the government to regulate more actively freedom of expression on the web, saying it should not be "left to companies".
Zuckerberg has been on the ropes at times over questions from committee members, who forced him to admit that he bought Instagram in 2012 because of the competitive threat it posed, which could have serious effects on an antitrust suit.
Google: is there an alternative?
The Commission has also questioned the power of Google, considering that it could have become too big a company in the web search and advertising business, which has not allowed the normal activity of a company that has not wanted to use its products.
Sundar Pichai has defended Google claiming that alternative search engines exist, adding that the company's success is due to the quality of its product. Likewise, he has defended that thanks to Google many small companies have been able to compete globally in times of coronavirus.
Likewise, he admitted that there are other alternatives to online searches, since they can be done through apps or with voice assistants, with which he has to actively compete.
The committee members also asked about the appropriation of content from third party companies, such as ratings from Yelp restaurants or lyrics from Genius for their own services. The committee believes that Google could have threatened to lower its status in search results if its terms were not accepted.
Apple and its AppStore
Apple's problem would be with AppStore, according to the commission, which considers that its store could be harming the business of third parties. Apple gets a commission of between 15 and 30 percent on all in-store transactions, which developers consider disproportionate. Developers are not allowed to link directly to alternative methods of purchasing content, which means that they are obliged to make the transaction through Apple.
In this sense, Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, has defended the company, following in the footsteps of his colleagues in the big technology companies. In particular, Cook pointed out that Apple has only a small share of the mobile phone market.
"The only apps that have a commission are those in which the developer acquires a client thanks to Apple", explained Cook, who added that Apple does not take commission from free apps nor from the income generated by the apps from advertising.
Amazon, hogging e-commerce
The case of Amazon is similar to that of Apple but in the e-commerce sector, the main concern of the commission being its size and the amount of information the company has on its customers, which enables it to sell products more effectively.
Amazon sells its own branded products in the technology sector, such as ebooks and speakers, and has been making a name for itself.
In this sense, Bezos has considered that Amazon is not a threat to other established brands. However, he has admitted that sales data for certain products could have been used to make strategic decisions about the product in question to be launched in the near future.
However, Bezos has been open to Amazon being investigated, saying that "we should be watching all the big institutions, whether they are companies or government agencies.