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Big tech corporations face criticism from members of Congress

James Duncan Davidson | Flickr

Members of Congress argued Inc., Google Inc., Facebook and Apple Inc. have acquired too much power and should be held accountable for their actions, as noted in an over-400 page report after a 16-month investigation.

The House Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee conducted an intense hearing for the CEOs of the four big tech corporations — Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Alphabet’s, the parent company of Google, Sundar Pichai.

Many have noted that these platforms are spreading misinformation, censoring speech and damaging the engines of the economy. The conclusion that has been collected from the House Judiciary subcommittee stated, “These companies wield their dominance in ways that erode entrepreneurship, degrade Americans’ privacy online, and undermine the vibrancy of the free and diverse press… The result is less innovation, fewer choices for consumers, and a weakened democracy,” according to the Guardian.

The report discovered Amazon used its third-party sellers to strengthen the retail side of their business. This includes favoring its own product brands over competitors, giving certain merchandise exclusive space on its virtual site and prioritizing it in the search engine.

Another criticism that Amazon is facing is that the company has the right to charge sellers fees and that most sellers and brands have no type of negotiating power due to their dependence on the website. Additionally, Amazon can penalize sellers for selling their own merchandise for lower listing prices on other websites.

Zuckerberg was pressed by the subcommittee about Facebook’s strategy of copying their competitors’ apps and features. Zuckerberg had admitted to the Congress members that Facebook has “certainly adapted features that others have led in.”

Zuckerberg, however, has denied any claims that Facebook had used tactics in an anti-competitive form. In a statement, he made the argument that Facebook became highly recognized through “the American way, by starting out with nothing and providing products that people find valuable,” according to the Guardian.

In Apple’s case, the subcommittee stated in their report that the company has used its dominance to remove rivals from the App Store. The report goes on to note that the tech company is clearly showing favoritism for its own apps and charge fees that app developers are calling “exorbitantly high.”

Apple disagreed with these remarks in a response to the Democrats’ report. “Our company does not have a dominant market share in any category where we do business… Last year in the United States alone, the App Store facilitated $138 billion in commerce with over 85% of that amount accruing solely to third-party developers. Apple’s commission rates are firmly in the mainstream of those charged by other app stores and gaming marketplaces,” Apple said in a statement for Vox’s Recode.

In the report, the subcommittee also found that Google used their dominance to boost its own content over other companies’ in its search results. Congress argues that Google is trying to launch an aggressive attack to undermine traveling companies such as Yelp and Expedia.

Another problem discovered about Google was its effort to push consumers to fully rely on Google’s search engine when using phones that are functioning with the Android operating system ever since Google had purchased Android back in 2005. “Documents show that Google required smartphone manufacturers to pre-install and give default status to Google’s own apps,” the report stated.

At the end of the hearing, a majority of both the House Democrats and Republicans agreed that these four major tech companies have accumulated too much power and are becoming a threat to the public. Even though both Democrats and Republicans have come to that conclusion, there are some Republicans in the House who believe that the approach proposed by the Democrats is the wrong way to go about finding the right solution for this concerning issue.

In his own report, Republication Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado called on members of Congress to help fund and empower agencies and government departments, such as the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice to go after big tech companies under laws currently being implemented.

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