The CEOs for four of the biggest U.S. technology companies will appear together for questioning in front of the House Judiciary Committee this month as it investigates online competition.
Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the chairman of the Democrat-led committee, and Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, the Democratic leader of the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, announced on Monday that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai will all testify “as part of the Committee’s ongoing investigation of competition in the digital marketplace.”
“Since last June, the Subcommittee has been investigating the dominance of a small number of digital platforms and the adequacy of existing antitrust laws and enforcement,” Nadler and Cicilline said. “Given the central role these corporations play in the lives of the American people, it is crucial that their CEOs are forthcoming. As we have said from the start, their testimony is essential for us to complete this investigation.”
The hearing is set for July 27, and under House rules during the coronavirus pandemic, witnesses and members are allowed to appear virtually. It coincides with a renewed effort by Republicans both in Congress and in the Trump administration to hold online companies accountable for what they view as abuses of power by the companies and censorship of conservative viewpoints.
Attorney General William Barr said in late June that he would soon decide on “actions” for the Justice Department to take in its broad investigation of Big Tech companies.
“There’s sort of a couple of lines being pursued. We have an antitrust investigation of all the major internet platforms or most of the major internet platforms, and that’s very much underway,” Barr said. “I expect to be making decisions in the next few weeks about actions on that. I think during the summer, we’ll see some developments.”
Last summer, the Justice Department opened a sweeping antitrust review into online platforms, threatening some of Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies. The tech giants under scrutiny likely include Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have said both Facebook and Amazon should be split up. Republicans, too, have raised concerns that major online companies have gained too much power.
Attorneys general in all 50 states and territories banded together last September to begin an antitrust investigation into Google, and the Justice Department is exploring filing an antitrust lawsuit against Google and others.
In mid-June, the Justice Department issued a report proposing that the laws governing internet companies, specifically Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, should be reformed and some immunities be rolled back to incentivize internet businesses to be “responsible actors.”
The Justice Department’s report came shortly after President Trump’s late May executive order, which said Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube “wield immense, if not unprecedented, power to shape the interpretation of public events” and “online platforms are engaging in selective censorship that is harming our national discourse.”