Four of the biggest tech CEOs are about to be grilled by Congress
Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google face a reckoning over their dominance.
Richard NievaJuly 27, 2020 1:41 p.m. PT
It’s fitting, though perhaps a bit anticlimactic, that when Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai convene on Wednesday for a highly anticipated congressional hearing, it will be over video chat.
Silicon Valley’s technology has changed the world, allowing people around the globe to stay connected even during an unprecedented pandemic. But the success of Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google’s parent company, Alphabet — and the four men who lead those companies — has brought about another unprecedented phenomenon: the stunning amount of control Silicon Valley has over what the world sees, reads, buys and does online.
How much control? Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with a user base roughly equal to the world’s two most populous countries combined. Amazon controls 38% of US online sales — Walmart, its nearest competitor, had just shy of 6% — and has data on other retailers using the giant platform. Apple’s App Store is a powerful gateway for software developers to find an audience with the company’s massive iPhone and iPad customer base. And Google processes about 90% of all web searches globally.
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The hearing, delayed by two days to accommodate a memorial for the late Rep. John Lewis, marks the first time lawmakers will have the opportunity to grill the CEOs of those four powerful companies at the same time. Officially, the topic is antitrust, the culmination of a more than year-long investigation into the market dominance of Big Tech by a House Judiciary subcommittee led by Rep. David Cicilline (pictured above), a Democrat from Rhode Island. In that time, the subcommittee has gathered more than 1.3 million documents from the tech giants, competitors and antitrust enforcement agencies for the investigation.
But politicians are known to go off-script, and the hearing is expected to become a free-for-all, touching on topics as varied as election security, political bias and relations with China.