tech

Antitrust hearing: Amazon, Facebook, Google grilled, Apple gets away a little easy

Compared to the Apple CEO, all the other three CEOs spent at least three times longer being questioned. While that’s great for Apple and Cook, it’s not that great for the businesses that build on Apple platforms.

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, speaks via videoconference during a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., US, on Wednesday, July 29, 2020. 
Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, speaks via videoconference during a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., US, on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.  (Bloomberg)

The ‘Online Platforms and Market Power’ antitrust hearing held virtually last night, the House Judiciary Committee questioned Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook over their policies and practices.

The CEOs faced a barrage of questions, but they were not all questioned ‘equally’.

Most of the house’s questions were aimed at Pichai, Bezos and Zuckerberg and each of the three were grilled for almost 50 mins each, while Cook got away with being questioned for only 25 minutes in total.

If one of was to breakdown exactly how many times each CEO was questioned by the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, they would know exactly where the focus of the anti-trust hearing lay. Bezos was questioned 13 times, Zuckerberg and Pichai were both questioned 16 times and Cook was questioned 7 times over the entire session.

These investigations matter to the companies being put on the dock but it also matters to the business that each of them attracts. And in this case, that includes any business that wants to put their iOS app into the App Store, or wants to show up on Google’s search results, sell their goods on Amazon, use ads to ‘target’ potential customers on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram and more.

One of the main issues of asking all the CEOs to appear for the investigations all on one day instead of four separate days is that the screen time each will get is bound to be skewed. In the hearing held over Webex, the committee focused on Facebook, Google and Amazon mostly. The three were questioned in-depth about their anti-competitive behaviour.

For example, Bezos was asked questions about Amazon using seller-specific data to decide what products they must manufacturer and sell for themselves, Zuckerberg was taken to task about his company acquiring competing social networks like Instagram and Pichai was questioned about Google prioritising their own products and services in the search results. Comparatively, Cook was questioned about the Apple App Store’s policies a few times, that’s all.

Compared to the Apple CEO, all the other three CEOs spent at least three times longer being questioned. While that’s great for Apple and Cook, it’s not that great for the businesses that build on Apple platforms.

The hearing last night is a small part of a larger series of antitrust investigations into Big Tech.

All the four big guns taken to task last night will be reporting their latest quarterly earnings soon and what they reveal not may be less mainstream than normal, given how the hearing went.

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