WASHINGTON.-The heads of the world’s four big tech companies, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, are facing an audience in the United States Congress this Wednesday in which they will be questioned about whether they have accumulated too much power and their dominant position does not allows free competition.
Sundar Pichai (Google), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Tim Cook (Apple) will answer questions from the Judicial Committee of the House of Representatives, which has investigated for a year the impact that this fact has on competition for these four technology giants to dominate markets such as online advertising, search, e-commerce, social media, messaging and mobile hardware and software.
The four companies together enter annually about $ 800 billion, almost three times Colombia’s gross domestic product (GDP), and have a market capitalization of $ 4.7 trillion, larger than the size of the German economy.
Amazon, for example, dominates much of the world’s e-commerce, as well as the significant data center and cloud sector with Amazon Web Services.
Google is the gateway to the internet and owns the most used mobile operating system; Facebook is the conglomerate by which many of the planet’s inhabitants receive information or share information, and Apple controls around a quarter of the market for “smartphones” and a tenth of that of computers.
This will be the most important audience for the technology sector since two decades ago the United States government tried to cut Microsoft for its dominant position and brings the echoes of when in the 90s the big tobacco companies sat down to answer about tobacco addiction and the industry was left forever reformed.
The questions of the congressmen could not only focus on free competition, but also on labor practices, privacy, electoral influence and disinformation, national security and international trade.
US President Donald Trump issued his first warning this morning, especially in the area of social media, by ordering the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the telecommunications regulator, to clarify “whether social media platforms can editorialize the expression of users. “
The Commerce Department asked the FCC to examine whether content “curation” is done in “good faith” and asked for transparency in moderation practices.
“The president will continue to fight unfair, anti-American and politically biased online censorship of Americans,” the White House said.
Trump has declared war on social networks, especially Twitter, since the latter marked some of his tweets with warnings for spreading false information about the elections, something that violates the rules of use of the platform.
Facebook has been more cautious when it comes to limiting content disclosed by Trump that could violate its rules of use on its platform.
The sword that Trump hangs over the heads of digital platforms like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube is section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which states that a social network cannot be treated as a “publisher”.
In any case, the audience, in addition to being complex (the four CEOs will sit together), promises to be unpredictable and complicated for congressmen who in the past have shown difficulties in understanding the technical background of some of the services provided by “Big Tech” and that they have before them the people who are better connected and who invest more money in influencing Washington.