The bosses of the four digital giants hardly have any friends at the Capitol. Public hearings in Washington before the Judicial Subcommittee on Anti-Trust Affairs on Wednesday revealed genuine concern among Republicans and Democrats alike over the means by which Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook are defending their strong position in the economy. .
For more than five hours, by videoconference because of the pandemic, Tim Cook for Apple, Sundar Pichai for the parent company of Google, Jeff Bezos for Amazon and Mark Zuckerberg for Facebook, tried to explain that they were not abusing of their dominant position to nip young innovative companies in the bud, unfairly crush their new potential rivals, or prevent consumers from leaving the ecosystems they have intelligently built.
Tim Cook appeared to face less criticism than his three colleagues. The American deputies naturally took advantage of these hearings to put themselves forward and serve the interests of their re-election in early November. As they move from topic to topic and witness to witness, they are often given the impression that they just want to score media points rather than seeking the truth about Gafa’s business practices.
The accusations that rained down were generally specific, based on testimonies from rival companies, frustrated developers, or consumers who felt they were being manipulated. So many clues and anecdotes collected for over a year by the services of the sub-committee.
Sundar Pichai has been accused of leaving Google “steal content from the Yelp siteTo promote its competitor application. He was also criticized for an internal Google memo where employees discuss websites “that attract too much trafficAnd think about ways to fix it. David Cicilline, Chairman of the sub-committee, explicitly accuses Google of manipulating the algorithm of its search engine to promote Internet user traffic on Google sites to the detriment of others.
Jeff Bezos had to listen to the recording of a trader using Amazon’s sales platform, accusing the leader of the online business of having seriously damaged his business in order to sanction it. “I am surprised at this. This is not the systematic approach that we take, I assure youThe richest man in America could only answer. The latter, for the first time summoned to Congress to testify under oath, swore that Amazon had never violated its internal rules prohibiting the trading platform from exploiting data derived from sales made by independent traders there. . The “congressmenHe listened skeptically.
“In America we must be rewarded for our success”
Facebook’s business acquisition policy has been repeatedly vilified. American elected officials accuse the social network of targeting young companies that could one day harm its interests, to buy them out and eliminate their competition. Mark Zuckerberg was ordered to explain an email discovered by the commission in which he describes Instagram as a business “that can hurt us significantly“. The takeover of Instagram by Facebook in 2012, authorized by the FTC, emerges as an illustration of the mistakes made by the American regulator.
These hearings give an idea of the offenses which the regulator, like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or Department of Justice, supported by the prosecutors of dozens of American states are seized. We know for example that a procedure by the Department of Justice against Google is imminent. She would take the Californian firm to court for practices contrary to free competition in the digital advertising market.
Some Republicans, although convinced that the “big Tech”, populated by left-wing Democratic engineers, are trying by all means to silence the conservatives on social networks, have nevertheless hinted that the success and size of the Gafa do not constitute an offense. “In America one must be rewarded for one’s success”Recalled for example James Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, leader of the Republican minority of the sub-committee.