Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook have “monopoly power” — and must be either regulated or broken up, according to a leading House Democrat.
In Wednesday’s Big Tech antitrust hearing, the focus throughout its five-hour run time was largely on anything else other than the topic at hand.
Questions thrown at the CEOs of Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook were all over the map — ranging from conservative censorship, cancel culture, China, and conspiracy theories. However, leading Democrat of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said lawmakers who focused on how these companies used their power to stifle competition proved the companies are being anti-competitive.
“Today we had the opportunity to hear from the decision-makers of four of the most powerful companies in the world,” Cicilline said. “This hearing has made one fact clear to me: These companies as they exist today have monopoly power. Some need to be broken up. This must end.”
Cicilline is referring to a handful of anecdotes heard during each testimony: Amazon reportedly suppressed similar products on its marketplace and undercuts competitors to maintain its 40% market share of the e-commerce industry; Google routinely guides consumers to Google products when using its search function; Facebook’s approach to acquisitions has been called “dangerous” and predatory in its quest to remain the top social networking site; and Apple’s control and regulation over its App Store can harm other startups from succeeding.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Sundar Pichai, Apple’s Tim Cook, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos all said that their companies do not harm competition, and some even suggested that there were bigger threats to small businesses out there than themselves.
Yet breaking Big Tech up will be hard to do, and if lawmakers intend to go down that road, it is guaranteed to take a very long time. Despite how bipartisan Wednesday’s hearing was in nature, working across the aisle on the issue of Big Tech has bureaucratic roadblocks.
The Subcommittee on Antitrust is set to publish its findings from its investigation soon. In that report, members of the committee will recommend several actions lawmakers can take as they see fit. They may propose laws and regulations or a continued investigation. We don’t yet know.
When Sen. Elizabeth Warren was running for the Democratic presidential nomination, she made breaking up Big Tech a talking point and proposed that Big Tech be dismantled so that the companies are not both the owner of a platform that allows users to find things and the things themselves — just like regulators already monitor Wall Street and Telecomm to ensure a level playing field.
But unfortunately for lawmakers looking to take a hard stance on Big Tech, a blanket regulation for the tech industry may not apply to each and every one of the companies represented in Wednesday’s hearing because they all have different business models. Hitting Google with a fine for directing a user to its product is much different than Facebook buying a rival product with a popular feature to stop competition.
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