GAFA bosses in front of the US Congress

GAFA crush their competitors, accuse Democrats; the GAFA censor us, say the Republicans. US officials tried Wednesday to summarize years of frustration vis-à-vis the companies that dominate the Internet.

Sundar Pichai (Alphabet, the parent company of Google), Tim Cook (Apple), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) are heard by videoconference by the Judicial Committee of the House of Representatives in Washington, which has been investigating for a year on possible abuse of a dominant position. “They have too much power,” said at the outset, David Cicilline, the chairman of the subcommittee on the competition. And “they will certainly emerge [from the pandemic] even stronger and more powerful than before.” “If Congress does not force the ‘Big Techs’ to be fair, which they should have done years ago, I will do it myself with decrees,” threatened Donald Trump before the start of the meeting .

The first questions from Democratic parliamentarians focused on practices they deem anti-competitive. “The evidence clearly shows that Google has become the gateway to the Internet and is abusing its power […] by ensuring, virtually, that any business that wants to be found online has to pay a tax to Google,” concluded Mr. Cicillin after a series of questions to Sundar Pichai.

Jerry Nadler, chairman of the commission, for his part attacked Mark Zuckerberg in the field of acquisitions, which “violate antitrust laws”.

“Facebook saw Instagram as a threat […], so […] he bought it,” he accused, as Mark Zuckerberg tried to argue that the app’s success was not guaranteed at the time of its acquisition.

Google and Facebook capture the bulk of global digital advertising revenue from the personal data of their billions of users. Apple and Amazon, they are accused of being judge and party on their platforms, the “App Store” for one and the e-commerce site for the other. As expected by many observers, with less than 100 days of the presidential election, the questions of elected Republican officials and certain Democrats quickly drifted on social networks and their relationship to freedom of expression.

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“The Big Techs opened the hunt for the conservatives and that’s a fact,” said Jim Jordan, one of Donald Trump’s close allies, listing examples of attempts, in his opinion, to silence Republicans on platforms.

Patriotic fiber

Combined, GAFAs are worth around $ 4.780 billion on the stock market. They have greatly contributed to American growth and allow the country to dominate the global Internet, from communication to electronic commerce.

But their hold on data, the engine of the digital economy, worries about competition and privacy, especially since the foreign interference scandals in the 2016 elections.

The bosses were able to put forward their arguments, especially during the opening remarks, the parliamentarians leaving them little the floor during the question and answer session.

All appeal to the patriotic fiber of elected officials. Their companies, “proudly American”, according to Mark Zuckerberg, owe their success to the values ​​and laws of the country – democracy, freedom, innovation, etc.

“There are no guarantees that our values ​​will win. China, for example, builds its own version of the Internet on very different ideas and exports this vision to other countries, ”insists the young billionaire. The GAFA also put forward their investments, job creation in the United States, and ensure to promote competition and face fierce competition.

The judicial commission has been investigating possible abuses of their dominant position for months, but the hearing is unlikely to have major consequences, except to prepare new, more restrictive laws to regulate digital platforms.

Jeff Bezos, spared by parliamentarians at the start of the session, nevertheless informed them of his personal philosophy. “When you look at yourself in the mirror, weigh the critics and still think you’ve made the right decisions, no force in the world should be able to make you change. “