Jeff Bezos, Zuckerberg, Pichai and Tim Cook testify to US Congress
Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google testify to Congress: live
Are China stealing US tech?
Republican Greg Steube asked the CEOs if they believed the Chinese government was stealing technology from US companies. Their answers were:
Cook. "I don’t know of specific cases where we have been stolen from by the government. I know of no case on ours where it occurred."
Pichai: "I have no first-hand knowledge of any information stolen from Google in this regard."
Zuckerberg: "I think it’s well documented that the Chinese government steals technology from US companies."
Bezos: "I haven’t seen that personally but I’ve heard many reports of it."
The problem with inflexibilty
Some of the questioning to the power chiefs has been very good, but some are showing limitations.
When you ask an opening question, with a clear objective of where you want it to go, it loses its effect if you ignore the answers in between. Take note lawmakers.
Tech quartet get Twitter reacting
Two years after Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg's explanation to U.S. lawmakers - 'Senator, we run ads' - exploded as a meme, online viewers again ridiculed key moments of a tech antitrust showdown on Wednesday, explains Reuters.
The chief executives of the country's largest tech companies - including Zuckerberg, Amazon Inc's Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai of Alphabet Inc's Google and Apple Inc's Tim Cook - gave virtual testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel.
BEZOS EATS A SNACK Social media users jumped on the fact that Amazon's Bezos received no questions for almost two hours in his first appearance before Congress. At one point, the world's richest man appeared to reach off-screen for a snack, to the internet's delight. 'someone calculate how much money he made during this nom,' tweeted @Bryson_M. Others did back-of-the-napkin calculations to figure out the answer. It was not immediately clear if there were technical problems with Amazon's feed.
THE NET U.S. Representative James Sensenbrenner's repeated use of the phrase 'the net' was also mocked online for being outdated, with watchers posting about the 1995 action thriller of the same name starring Sandra Bullock and sharing GIFs of retro computer icons and dial-up internet. The Wisconsin Republican also grilled Facebook's CEO on Twitter Inc's decision to restrict Donald Trump Jr's account from tweeting for 12 hours this week after he violated its rules on coronarvirus misinformation. 'I think what you might be referring to happened on Twitter, so it's hard for me to speak to that,' said Zuckerberg. Republican Representative Greg Steube was also roasted on social media for asking Google's CEO, Pichai, why his campaign emails were going to spam folders in Gmail.
ROOM RATER The chief executives initially appeared as thumbnail images on a large screen, frustrating viewers who mocked the virtual set-up on Twitter. When the CEOs were later shown individually on large screens, the popular pandemic Twitter account @ratemyskyperoom pronounced its scores, saying Zuckerberg's set-up looked like a hostage video. For Bezos? 'Back off the soft focus. Add books. Remember books? Order a couple ring lights. Here’s one. You gave it 4.5 stars. You get 6/10,' it tweeted, with a screenshot of an Amazon ring light product.
Was their fashion really part of the plan?
The New York Times' fashion critic certainly believes so...
Google pressed against Biden bias
Republican congressman Jim Jordan piles in several times for a clear answer to protect his man, Donald Trump:
"Can you assure us you are not going to silence conservatives and... you're not going to configure your features [in favour of] Joe Biden?"
"You have my commitment. It's always been true and we'll continue to conduct yourselves in a neutral way," replied Pichai.
Bezos not clear on seller data question
Pramila Jayapal (Dem) asks Amazon chief if his company has ever used seller data to make business decisions.
"What I can tell you is we have a policy against using seller-specific data to aid our private label business, but I can't guarantee you that that policy has never been violated."
"We are not working with the Chinese military"
Matt Gaetz (Republican) claims Google collaborated with Chinese universities, which take "millions upon millions of dollars from the Chinese military"
In response Pichai said: "We are not working with the Chinese military it's absolutely false. What we do in China, compared to our peers, it's very very limited in nature.
"Our AI work in China is limited to a handful of people working on open source projects."
Apple boss defends app fairness
"Sir, we treat every developer the same," Tim Cook said.
"We have open and transparent rules. We do look at every app before it goes on. But those apps, those rules apply evenly to everyone."
Trump Jr action over hydroxychloroquine questioned
Jim Sensenbrenner questioned Zuckerberg over a post by the president's son, Donald Trump Jr, talking about the efficacy of the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19 being taken down.
The Facebook boss suggested that may have been Twitter's actions but added:
"We do prohibit content that will lead to imminent risk of harm.
"We do not want to become the arbiters of truth... [although] if someone is going to go out and say that hydroxychloroquine is proven to cure Covid, when in fact it has not been proven to cure Covid, and that statement could lead people to take a drug that in some cases, some of the data suggests that it might be harmful to people... we think that we should take that down."
Sensenbrenner will be kicking himself over that one!
Google's 'conflict of interest'
David Cicilline accuses Google's Sundar Pichai of the company having a "conflict of interest" between providing appropriate information to the public and selling adverts or keeping users on its own pages.
Mr Pichai said they needed its users to trust them and that the majority of search queries do not show any adverts.
Four chief executives give testimony by remote video link
Bezos, Pichair, Cook then Zuckerberg. We get their previously released opening remarks.
Question now begin...
"What's not great is censoring [right-leaning] people"
Well, that was fiery! No punches pulled from Republican Jim Jordan who calls out his perceived bias from the social media elements of the companies. He aimed to back it up with a list of examples including the recent censoring of Donald Trump.
"Big tech is out to get conservatives," he said. "That's a fact.
"We all think the free market's great. We think competition's great. We love the fact these are American companies. But what's not great is censoring people."
"Conservatives are consumers too"
Senior Republican Jim Sensenbrenner is worried about tech companies being politically biased.
"Companies like Facebook, Google's YouTube and Twitter have become the public square of today, where political debate unfolds. But reports that dissenting views, often conservative views, are targeted or censored is seriously troubling.
"Conservatives are consumers too, and they need the protection of the antitrust laws.
Congress begins with coronavirus impact on our lives
The introductory comments from chairman David Cicilline (Democratic congressman) focuses on how the "dominance" of the big four will be addressed in the hearing. He links their power to how people and businesses are struggling in the current climate.
He also points to how the American people being dominated and controlled by a small group of 'gatekeepers' who 'dictate' the winners, is against the democracy the country is built on.
Facing the panel for Apple will be Tim Cook. He will look to focus on patriotism and how only in the US could a company become so valuable. Google’s Sundar Pichai will try to focus attention away from Google’s search engine dominance by stating that “People have more ways to search for information than ever before, and increasingly this is happening outside the context of only a search engine.“
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, on the other hand, is expected to begin with a statement about values on which the American economy was built and that "China is building its own version of the internet focused on very different ideas, and they are exporting their vision to other countries."
Making his first ever appearance in front of Congress, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, who is believed to be the world's richest person, is expected to talk about his childhood and how that gave him the excellent work ethic that put him where he is now.
Tech giants Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple testify to Congress
The behemoths of the technology industry are being questioned by Congress on Wednesday at 13:00 ET with the objective to identify if the power is controlled by too few. The company chiefs will be asked about their market dominance primarily although at the hearing almost anything goes. That could see questions raised about the management of fake news and propaganda especially around elections and the coronavirus pandemic.