Wednesday’s five-plus-hour congressional probing of the bosses of America’s tech giants did not reveal a singular “gotcha” moment or smoking gun email. We’ve heard many of these examples of Big Tech abuse before.
But the power of this hearing and others like it was the cumulative repetition of tales of abusive behavior, and evidence of the harm this has had on people’s lives.
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Grilled by Lawmakers, Big Tech Turns Up the Gaslight
It is less clear that tech executives’ strategy of evasive answers will continue to work now that lawmakers have begun doing their homework.
When Mark Zuckerberg appeared in front of Congress two years ago, the Facebook chief executive’s memorable retort to a clueless questioner was “Senator, we run ads.” After Wednesday’s marathon appearance by Mr. Zuckerberg and three other tech titans at a House hearing on competition in the tech industry, a more fitting quote might be “Congresswoman, I’m not sure what you would mean by ‘threaten.’”
That was Mr. Zuckerberg’s evasive answer to a question asked by Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington, about whether Facebook had ever threatened to squash smaller competitors by copying their products if they wouldn’t let Facebook acquire them.
Five key moments from the big tech grilling
The heads of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google owner Alphabet appeared before US lawmakers on Wednesday night to defend their companies against claims they abuse their power to squash competitors.
Here are five key moments from the hearing.
Lessons for Congress From the Big Tech Antitrust Hearings
You may be forgiven for having thought that Wednesday’s Big Tech CEO hearing—in which the top executives at Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook were scheduled to get grilled by Congress on antitrust and unfair competition issues—would be one of the must-see Hill events of the season.
But as with earlier congressional events in 2020—notably the impeachment in the House and trial in the Senate of President Donald Trump—Congress overpromised and underdelivered. What could have been a teachable moment for students of American public policy quickly morphed into something that was mostly (although not entirely) an empty exercise. Given how much the hearing overall was focused on the merely performative—with so many members seeking primarily to score points for audiences on C-SPAN or at home—it’s worth asking what kind of lessons could be learned from Wednesday’s hearings. I have a few ideas.
The 5 biggest little lies tech CEOs told Congress — and us
Sometimes, it’s the little lies that are the most telling.
Watching the leaders of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google face a filleting in front of the House antitrust panel on Wednesday, I kept a running list of the little half-truths they told.
If I only had a dollar for every time a big tech CEO said they cared deeply about our privacy.