The GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) are crushing their competitors and democracy, the Democrats have hammered; the GAFA censor us, stormed the Republicans: the American elected officials gave free rein, Wednesday, July 29, for five hours, to years of frustration vis-à-vis these sprawling companies which dominate the global Internet.
The leaders of these companies – Sundar Pichai (Alphabet, Google’s parent company), Tim Cook (Apple), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) – were interviewed by videoconference by the judicial committee of the House of representatives in Washington, which has been investigating possible abuses of a dominant position for a year.
“They have too much power”, said David Cicilline, the chairman of the subcommittee on competition. And “They will certainly emerge [de la pandémie] even stronger and more powerful than before ”. “If Congress does not force the “Big Tech” to be fair, which he should have done years ago, I will do it myself with decrees ”, threatened US President Donald Trump before the start of the meeting.
” Candy shop “
Democratic members of the House mainly focused on the business model of these giants. They have tried to prove that they are using the mountains of personal data at their disposal and that they carry out acquisitions of competitors to illegally prevent any competitor from emerging, to the detriment of consumers, citizens, innovation. and democracy.
“Google has become the portal for accessing the Internet and is abusing its power”, argued Mr. Cicillin after a series of questions to Sundar Pichai. “It has become a fenced garden, (…) which virtually ensures that any business that wants to be found online pays a tax to Google. “
Jerry Nadler, the Democratic chairman of the commission, for his part attacked Mark Zuckerberg on the field of acquisitions. “Facebook saw Instagram as a threat (…), so (…) they bought them back ”, he accused.
Jeff Bezos, whose first appearance before a parliamentary committee, also took for his rank. “Amazon is only interested in exploiting its monopoly on online salesMr. Cicillin said. Its dual role of host and merchant on the same platform is fundamentally anti-competitive. Congress must take action. “
To support this point, the elected Pramila Jayapal quoted a former employee of Amazon: « [Les chefs] just tell us, “don’t use the data.” But it’s a real candy store, everyone has access to whatever they want. “
“Hunt for conservatives”
Tim Cook was asked about the same subject – his standing as a judge and part on his application platform, the App store – but he was relatively spared compared to the others.
On the side of Republican elected officials, Greg Steube asked Sundar Pichai about his campaign emails which “Systematically arrive in spam folders”, sign, according to him, of a plot against the conservatives.
Less than a hundred days before the presidential election, many questions have focused on social networks and their relationship to freedom of expression. “The Big Techs have opened up the hunt for the conservatives, that’s a fact”, said Jim Jordan, one of Donald Trump’s close allies, saying that the platforms were doing everything to silence Republicans.
He also accused Google of being an ally of China (the search engine has not been accessible for twenty years) and he tried to make the boss of the group promise that his services “Would not be tailored to help Joe Biden [le candidat démocrate à la présidentielle de novembre] to win “.
On competition, several of the Republican members of the committee believe that being « grand » is not a defect, and can even be used to ” do good “.
Split and regulate
Combined, GAFAs are worth around $ 4,780 billion (€ 4,060 billion) on the stock market. Billionaires Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg are among the top five richest men in the world.
These big bosses had little opportunity to respond to the accusations, except during their opening remarks, where they praised their « success stories » American style to appeal to the patriotic fiber of elected officials. They highlighted their contribution to growth, their investments, job creation in the United States, and assured to promote competition while facing fierce competition.
Not enough to convince Mr. Cicilline: “These companies have a monopoly. Some must be split, others must be regulated and made responsible for their actions ”, he concluded.
The judicial commission has been investigating possible abuses of a dominant position for months, but the hearing is unlikely to have major consequences, if not, perhaps, to prepare new more restrictive laws for the platforms digital.