Updated: Sep 13, 2020
OSHANA BENOTMANE | LEGAL JARGON WRITER
Following one of our previous articles by Malcolm Zoppi titled ‘Big Tech faces U.S. Antitrust Authorities’ which focuses on Amazon and apple, part 2 will review in detail the arguments of Google and Facebook during the Antitrust hearing.
CEO's Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Sundar Pichai of Google, Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Tim Cook of Apple faced harsh scrutiny from the US congress. Congress spent countless hours collecting information and conducting interviews for the tech companies. They claim to have "too much power" and are forming an "innovation kill zone" to bring down their competitors. It is believed these companies have violated Antitrust laws and are exercising a monopoly against their competitors.
Lawmakers began questioning Google based on allegations from smaller businesses that Google has stolen their content to add to their own pages. The review company Yelp claims Google took their reviews to repost onto their pages. When Yelp confronted Google, they responded with a threat to remove Yelp from search results.
Additionally, there are reports of Google's violation of their data access and respect to user privacy linked to ad revenue. Congress went as far as stating that what changed over the years is that "Google gained enormous market power". This allowed them to disregard the "user privacy" they previously cared for given that Sundar Pichai admitted that Google receives 80% of its revenue from ads. Thus leading congress to suggest that "more user data" means Google gets to make more money breaching privacy.
Facebook was accused of copying its competitors and sending competitive threats to acquire said companies. Congress used the Instagram platform they purchased in 2012 as the prime example. Before the acquisition, Facebook was developing a similar product known as Facebook Camera, which they allegedly used to threaten Kevin Systrom (founder of Instagram). Mr Systrom felt pressured to sell Instagram to Facebook as he feared Facebook would go into "destroy mode" if the acquisition was not completed.
Zuckerberg defended these claims, stating he is merely trying to develop the best products to meet the consumers' demand.
Google and Facebook both faced backlash as they were accused of anti-conservative bias. It was claimed they "censored" conservative content from their platforms, swaying politics with their online power.
While congress continues to review the actions of these companies, many believe it is time to break down their online powers. Congress is also considering rewriting antitrust laws, although this legislation is highly unlikely to pass anytime soon.
Oshana Benotmane is a second year law student at Queen Mary University of London. Outside her studies, Oshana is also involved with the Commercial Awareness Society and QMLAC. She is aspiring towards a career in corporate law in the fields of M&A and FinTech.
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