BY BOWEN XIAO
The CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google will all testify later this month at an antitrust hearing before the U.S. House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, which is continuing its probe into competition in the digital marketplace.
The July 27 hearing, during which witnesses will be allowed to testify remotely under current House rules, comes amid an unprecedented level of bipartisan scrutiny of major tech companies. Antitrust probes have been begun at both the state and federal levels.
Given the central role these companies play in the lives of everyday Americans, “it is critical that their CEOs are forthcoming,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said in a joint statement.
“As we have said from the start, their testimony is essential for us to complete this investigation,” they said in the July 6 release.
The witnesses called are confirmed to be Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Sundar Pichai of Google, and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, according to the committee. The hearing is the sixth such session.
According to Reuters, lawmakers are expected to release a report on the findings of their antitrust investigation in the coming weeks. Cicilline didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment from The Epoch Times.
The CEOs would be answering questions “about their compliance with antitrust laws, with their anticompetitive practices, and with a real understanding as to how our existing laws tend to benefit, protect, and indemnify big tech,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said in a statement.
Gaetz added that it’s obvious companies such as Apple and Amazon are censoring Americans, noting practices by those companies to benefit the Chinese Communist Party at the expense of Americans.
“There are circumstances and experiences that we have uncovered in our investigation where people submit their products and then Amazon finds a way to steal the IP [intellectual property], replicate the tech, and then provide the product at a lower cost, harming the innovator who is often American and benefiting a manufacturer willing to cheat, often in China,” he said.
Last year, House lawmakers demanded all four of the firms turn over a wide range of documents, including sensitive internal emails from the companies’ top executives, in what was the biggest development of the probes at the time.
Leaders of the House Judiciary Committee and its subcommittee on antitrust also sought detailed financial information and other company records. They also requested internal emails over the past decade from the CEOs of the companies, as well as other top executives, about acquisitions.
Doug Melamed, a law professor at Stanford University with expertise in antitrust law and intellectual property, said theoretically the probes could result in a wide range of outcomes, “from new legislation to no litigation at all.
“As a practical matter, I think the most likely outcomes are somewhere in the middle, some kind of litigation that will probably result in a settlement with restrictions on the conduct of one or more of the platforms,” Melamed told The Epoch Times previously.
At the same time, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission (FCC) are investigating Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon for potential violations of antitrust law.
A partnership of 50 U.S. states and territories, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, also is reviewing Google’s practices, while a separate bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in eight states is looking at possible antitrust concerns with Facebook.
The Justice Department has since hired outside litigators as part of its examinations, an indication the department is preparing an antitrust suit against Google, according to a recent report from Fox Business.
In addition to the antitrust probes, President Donald Trump in May signed an executive order directing federal agencies to develop regulations under an existing law that protects social media companies from being sued for user-generated content. The regulations aim to protect users from unfair or deceptive content restriction practices employed by these companies.