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The Four Executives of Technology

Antitrust and large technology companies on trial

Four of the most powerful technology companies and their corresponding chief executives are set to face lawmakers on July the 29th.

  1. Amazon.
  2. Apple.
  3. Facebook.
  4. Google.

The lawmakers have engaged in an investigation. The antitrust panel of the House Judiciary Committee has led the investigation.

Thankfully the evidence from this investigation may make it into public record. Under Chairman David Cicilline’s (D-RI) leadership, members of the committee are heading into this week’s hearing with a huge pile of receipts, leaving little room for the executives to avoid uncomfortable lines of questioning.

  • Throughout the year 1.3 million documents has been acquired.
  • Five public hearings have been held.
  • Hundreds of hours of interviews have been conducted.

Wednesday on the 29th of July it is happening.

The committee has already prepared over the last 13 months, and to some extent it boils down to this moment.

It is surely a number of documents that no tech CEO has reckoned with since Microsoft’s antitrust charges in the ’90s.

Still, some argue that through bundling together the four companies into one hearing BigTech has already won. It is a strategy they insisted on.

A report is coming out at the end of of this (within a few months) detailing how these companies have avoided liability. Competition rules were never crafted with the tech industry’s behaviours in mind.

Jeff Bezos, one of the riches men on the planet, is testifying before Congress for the first time.

According an article in the Verge published the 28th of July:

“Amazon has been a chief target for tech antitrust scholars for years, and recent evidence has put it in a particularly shaky position.”

Nate Sutton (last July) alleged the company did not access sales data from sellers.

However The Wall Street Journal reported April 2020 that Amazon employees used independent seller data to guide the development of Amazon’s own products.

A report was launched that showed how Amazon adapted according to products by third-party sellers before launching a competing product.

The House Judiciary Committee called on Bezos to testify in light of the story.

According to the same article in The Verge:

  • Apple is facing active antitrust inquiries in both the US and EU over its app store policies (30 percent cut the company collects for fees paid through the store)
  • Google will likely be asked to address its dominance as a search engine,
  • Facebook’s history of troublesome acquisitions (WhatsApp, Instagram etc.).

It is expected that bias of platforms in politics will be questioned too.

It is not possible that companies will try to shift the attention towards China, as this has been done in previous hearings. Apps like TikTok may receive a mention.

Hearings end on Wednesday.

Yet, it poses large questions for regulation or legislation, perhaps even for democracy.

This is #500daysofAI and you are reading article 420. I am writing one new article about or related to artificial intelligence every day for 500 days.

AI Policy and Ethics at www.nora.ai. Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own. twitter.com/AlexMoltzau

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