Senior executives of Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple were hit with some tough questions on Wednesday as they appeared before the US Congress House Antitrust Subcommittee's hearings to defend against claims that they are abusing their market dominance to crush rivals.
Over the last year, lawmakers in Congress have been investigating whether these tech giants have misused their power in the online marketplace to kill competition.
The firms now face threats of further regulation in the US, with some conservative politicians accusing them of being biased against the Republican Party.
The virtual hearings on Wednesday continued for nearly six hours, with top lawmakers arriving armed with thousands of documents, records of earlier CEO interviews and even private messages.
According to some lawmakers, these tech firms have become so big that they are now threatening competitors, consumers and even democracy, in some cases.
"Simply put, they have too much power," said David Cicilline, a Democrat representative, as reported by the Financial Times.
Cicilline asked Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, "Why does Google steal content from honest businesses?" He also accused the search giant of attempting to silence Yelp by threatening to eliminate it from search results if Yelp declined to allow Google to take reviews from the site.
Responding to the question, Mr Pichai said that Google doesn't steal content from other companies and conducts itself to the "highest standards".
Republican Jim Jordan attacked Google saying that the firm could manipulate its search results to support Joe Biden in presidential elections. Mr Pichai denied the accusation.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was questioned about his firm's strategy of copying rival's app and their features and even threatening to do so as a negotiation tactic amid discussion over potential merger/acquisition.
In his response, Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook had definitely "adapted features that others have led in" but denied claims that such tactics were used in an anti-competitive way.
Zuckerberg: "We're not using cookies to collect private information about people who use our services."— jordan wildon (@JordanWildon) July 29, 2020
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos acknowledged that his company might have improperly used third-party seller data to inform its own product decisions, adding that while the company has a policy to prohibit the use of third-party seller data to support own private-label business, he can't guarantee "that policy has never been violated."
Dries Buytaert, founder ofDrupaland CTO ofAcquia commented:"Large internet companies have been enablers of community, transparency and positive change, but also of abuse, hate speech, bullying, misinformation, data breaches, government manipulation and more. These powerful corporations have built empires by exchanging free services for users' data and hiding their practices behind difficult-to-understand terms of service and privacy policies.
"I'm hopeful that increased regulation may fix some of the web's current problems and ensure that we keep building an open, safe and decentralised web for decades and generations to come."
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