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  • - [Kelly] On Wednesday, lawmakers squared off

  • with the chief executives of the tech industries

  • four most powerful players,

  • Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Apple's Tim Cook,

  • Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, and Google Sundar Pichai.

  • Since last June, the house judiciary committee

  • has been engaged in a sweeping investigation

  • of each of the four companies,

  • honing in on how they stifle competition

  • in the tech industry.

  • These companies have been consolidating power

  • for a long time,

  • and now, Congress is getting ready to do something about it.

  • - Open markets are predicated on the idea

  • that if a company harms people, consumers, workers,

  • and business partners will choose another option.

  • We're here today because that choice is no longer possible.

  • The purpose of today's hearing

  • is to examine the dominance of Amazon,

  • Apple, Facebook and Google.

  • - [Kelly] For years,

  • antitrust experts have been building the case

  • against big techs questionable acquisitions,

  • predatory pricing, and copycat behaviors.

  • The CEO's had to face those arguments head-on on Wednesday.

  • - Amazon runs the largest online marketplace in America,

  • capturing 70% of all online marketplace sales.

  • Despite a litany of privacy scandals

  • and record-breaking fines,

  • Facebook continues to enjoy booming profits,

  • $18 billion last year alone.

  • Google is the world's largest online search engine,

  • capturing more than 90% of searches online.

  • - [Kelly] These are four very different companies,

  • but the committee use Wednesday's hearing

  • to show how similar they were

  • when responding to competitors.

  • In particular, the committee looked at how

  • each company controls distribution,

  • surveys nascent companies,

  • and how they use their market dominance

  • to suppress competition.

  • - We used to have a policy that restricted competitors

  • from using our platform.

  • - Okay Mr. Zuckerberg, these examples

  • and supporting documents strongly suggests

  • that Facebook does weaponize its policy

  • to undermine competitors.

  • - Is it true that Amazon refers to third party sellers

  • as internal competitors?

  • - We've interviewed many small businesses

  • and they use the words like bullying, fear and panic

  • to describe their relationship with Amazon.

  • - That's an enormous amount of power.

  • - [Kelly] The committee argued that companies

  • like Facebook and Google

  • control how information is disseminated.

  • The same goes for Apple and Amazon,

  • but when it comes to their app stores and marketplaces.

  • - Apple is the sole decision maker

  • as to whether an app is made available to app users

  • through the Apple store.

  • Isn't that correct?

  • - If it's a native app? Yes, sir.

  • If it's a weapon, no.

  • - Throughout our investigation,

  • we've heard concerns that rules governing

  • the app store review process

  • are not available to the app developers.

  • The rules are made up as you go.

  • They are upper trevally interpreted and enforced,

  • and are subject to change whenever Apple sees fit to change.

  • And developers have no choice,

  • but to go along with the changes

  • or they must leave the app store.

  • That's an enormous amount of power.

  • Mr. Cook, does Apple not treat all app developers equally?

  • - Sir, we treat every developer the same,

  • because we care so deeply about privacy

  • and security and quality.

  • We do look at every app before it goes on,

  • but those rules apply evenly to everyone.

  • - [Kelly] Surveillance is key

  • to the committee's investigation.

  • Throughout the hearing, lawmakers argue that

  • each company has used its dominance in the tech industry

  • to keep a watchful eye on their competitors.

  • Google face tough questions from lawmakers

  • who fear that its dominance in search

  • allows it to monitor the web traffic of competitors.

  • This information could result in the company

  • ranking competitors lower in search results.

  • - In 2010, Google stole restaurant reviews from Yelp

  • to bootstrap its own rival local search business.

  • - Mr. Pichai, do you know how Google responded

  • when Yelp asked you to stop stealing their reviews?

  • Well, I'll tell you,

  • our investigation shows that Google's response

  • was to threaten to delist Yelp entirely.

  • In other words, the choice Google gave you up was,

  • let us steal your content

  • or effectively disappear from the web.

  • Mr. Pichai, isn't that anti-competitive?

  • - Congressmen, you know, when I run the company,

  • I'm really focused on giving users what they want.

  • We conduct ourselves to the highest standard,

  • happy to engage, understand the specifics

  • and answer your questions further.

  • - [Kelly] You can make the same argument

  • for Facebook buying Instagram,

  • Amazon buying Ring,

  • or Apple using the app store to fend off competing software.

  • Has Facebook ever threatened

  • to clone the products of another company

  • while also attempting to acquire that company?

  • - Congresswoman, not that I would recall.

  • - And I'd like to just remind you that you are under oath

  • and there are quotes from Facebook's own documents.

  • Prior to acquiring Instagram,

  • Facebook began developing a similar product called

  • Facebook Camera, correct?

  • - Congresswoman, that's correct.

  • - Did you ever use this very similar Facebook camera product

  • to threaten Instagram's founder, Kevin Systrom?

  • - Congresswoman, I'm not sure

  • what you would mean by threatened.

  • I think it was public that we were building a camera app

  • at the time, that was a well-documented thing.

  • - In a chat you told Mr. Systrom that Facebook was

  • "Developing our own photo strategy.

  • So, how we engage now will also determine

  • how much we're partners versus competitors down the line."

  • Instagram's founders seem to think that was a threat.

  • He confided in an investor at the time

  • that he feared you would go into

  • "Destroy mode" if he didn't sell Instagram to you.

  • - Congresswoman, I wanna respectfully disagree

  • with the characterization.

  • I think it was that this was a space

  • that we were going to compete in one way or another.

  • I don't view those conversations as a threat in any way.

  • - I'm just using the documents

  • and the testimony that the committee

  • has collected from others.

  • Did you warn Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat,

  • that Facebook was in the process of cloning

  • the features of his company,

  • while also attempting to buy Snapchat?

  • - Congresswoman, I don't remember

  • those specific conversations,

  • but that was also an area where it was very clear

  • that we were going to be building something.

  • - [Kelly] Finally, the committee honed in

  • on how each platform allegedly abuses its control

  • over current technologies

  • to strengthen their market dominance.

  • Lawmakers argued that through self preferencing

  • and predatory pricing,

  • these platforms have made it difficult

  • for small businesses and competitors to succeed.

  • And in one case we heard from one Amazon bookseller

  • who was blocked by selling books for no apparent reason.

  • - We were a top book seller on Amazon.com,

  • and we worked day-and-night very hard

  • towards growing our business

  • and maintaining a five-star feedback rating.

  • Most importantly, this business feeds a total of 14 people.

  • And as we grew, we were shrinking Amazon's market share

  • in the textbooks category.

  • So now, in retaliation

  • Amazon started restricting us from selling.

  • They started with a few titles in early 2019,

  • and within six months,

  • Amazon systematically blocked us

  • from selling the full textbook category.

  • We haven't sold a single book from the past 10 months,

  • or probably more.

  • We were never given a reason.

  • Amazon didn't even provide us with a notice

  • as to why we were being restricted.

  • There was no warning. There was no plan.

  • - She told us that they sent

  • more than 500 separate communications to Amazon,

  • including to you Mr. Bezos, over the past year.

  • There was not a single meaningful response.

  • Do you think this is an acceptable way

  • to treat someone that you described

  • as both a partner and customer?

  • - No, congresswoman. And I would like to talk to her.

  • It does not at all to me

  • seem like the right way to treat her.

  • - [Kelly] Wednesday's hearing

  • was really just the beginning.

  • In a few weeks, the committee will publish a final report,

  • detailing how large tech firms

  • allegedly violate antitrust laws,

  • and what they can do to fix these problems.

  • By this fall, Chairman Ciciline and company

  • will release that report, and the real work will begin.

  • Thinking about how Congress

  • wants to regulate these companies,

  • or if any of them should be broken up.

  • - We need to ensure the antitrust laws first written

  • more than a century go work in the digital age.

  • When these laws were written in Minneapolis

  • were men named Rockefeller and Carnegie.

  • Their controls in marketplace allowed them to do

  • whatever it took to crush independent businesses

  • and expand their own power.

  • The names have changed, but the story is the same.

  • And without objection, this hearing is adjourned.

- [Kelly] On Wednesday, lawmakers squared off

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Apple, Google, Facebook & Amazon hearing: what you need to know

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/10/23
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