Congress grilled the heads of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google in an antitrust hearing Wednesday, pressing for answers to allegations of anti-competitive behavior.
While the high-profile hearing by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law was an occasion for lawmakers to air a laundry list of pet peeves, what video call would be complete without a few glitches, snacks and theatrics?
Here’s what you may have missed.
‘You’re still on mute’
The fanfare of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ first congressional appearance was muted by the fact that his audio feed did not work for the first two hours. Both he and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used some of their off-mic — but on-camera — time to enjoy some snacks.
‘Put your mask on’
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., angrily directed Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, to “put your mask on!” Jordan shot back: “Talk about masks. Why would the deputy secretary of the Treasury unmask Michael Flynn’s name?”
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Buying up competition
Bezos said the most common reason Amazon acquires a company is for market position. Zuckerberg said Facebook bought Instagram to “neutralize” it, according to emails brought up by committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.
Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., asked, “If Amazon didn’t have monopoly power over these sellers, do you think they would continue in a relationship characterized by bullying, fear and panic?” Bezos replied, “I do not accept the premise of your question.”
Return of the JEDI contract
Google was pressed by several lawmakers over its decision to withdraw from bidding for two Defense Department AI projects after the emergence of internal employee criticism questioning whether the company was indirectly benefiting the Chinese.
Can the buyer beware?
Each company faced withering criticism that it, in one way or another, abused its market position to snuff out or purchase competitors, stifling innovation and ultimately harming consumers. Despite their market dominance, the CEOs disagreed that they behave monopolistically, saying other options are only a click away.
Apple’s pie to carve
Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., took Apple CEO Tim Cook to task over the Apple store, saying that it unfairly advantages the company’s apps over those of third-party developers and that the 30 percent commission it charges is too high. Cook — as did a recent study the company commissioned ahead of the hearing — said the fees are similar to those of its digital competitors.
Speech or spam?
Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., asked Google CEO Sundar Pichai why his political campaign emails are ending up in his dad’s spam folder. “In Gmail, we are focused on what users want,” Pichai responded. “And users have indicated they want us to organize their personal emails, emails they receive from friends and family, separately.”
A telling statistic
Each of the CEOs drew about 60 questions, except Cook of Apple, who got only 35.
Bust the trust
In closing remarks, Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., compared the four companies to 1920s robber barons John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, saying: “Some need to be broken up. … All need to be regulated.”