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Big Tech heads raked over coals on Capitol Hill

There is nothing politicians of both parties like more than a big fat private sector cow to tax, regulate, and make sanctimonious statements about. On Monday they got that chance on Capitol Hill as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai of Google, and Apple’s Tim Cook testified before the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee.

The bottom line: Democrats want to nail Big Tech because they think they wield too much private sector power. Democrats hate something that big that they don’t control.

Republicans went after Big Tech because of tech’s anti-conservative editorial bias and also see Big Tech as a possible monopoly.

Thus Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-RI) said he sees  this as “the most bipartisan issue in some time on Capitol Hill.” He’s right. To prove it, the president concurred.

How big is Big Tech? Fox News measured it this way: “Amazon is expected to account for 38 percent of U.S. e-commerce sales and 5.5 percent of total U.S. retail sales in 2020, according to research firm eMarketer. Of that, 41.1 percent comes directly from Amazon and 58.9 percent is from Amazon Marketplace, Amazon’s third-party business, which allows other sellers to use the company’s platform to sell goods.”

As such, Cicilline said, “Our founders did not bow before a king and we should not bow before the emperors of the online economy.”

GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio got his shots in [2]: “Big tech is out to get conservatives.” Jordan cited numerous examples of anti-GOP and anti-conservative bias on almost every platform in social media, especially Twitter.

“Frankly, I think we’ve distinguished ourselves as one that defends freedom of expression the most,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg replied.

“You did it in 2016,” Jordan said, referring to anti-Trump bias on Facebook, “I just want to make sure you’re not going to do it in 2020.”

“We engage with campaigns according to law and approach our work in a nonpartisan way,” Zuckerberg retorted. “Any work we do around the elections is nonpartisan.” Well, that’s a stretch. However, compared to other tech giants like Twitter, Facebook is not the worst offender.

Jeff Bezos spoke of the uniquely American quality of Amazon: “It’s not a coincidence that Amazon was born in this country. More than any other place on Earth, new companies can start, grow, and thrive here in the U.S. Our country embraces resourcefulness and self-reliance, and it embraces builders who start from scratch.”

But Zuckerberg and Bezos are right now on the wrong side of public opinion. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, “Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats believe social media companies wield too much power, but Republicans are particularly likely to express this view.”

Private sector advocates came to the defense of the tech titans: “It’s important to step back and remember that these companies create enormous value for hundreds of millions of users and small businesses and that the United States does not lack adequate antitrust policy to address any legitimate concerns if they abuse their market power,” said Technology and Innovation Foundation President Robert D. Atkinson.

He also commented, “Congress shouldn’t twist antitrust law to launch an ill-defined broadside on Internet platforms as a class. Monopolists traditionally try to boost profits by reducing supply. These companies aggressively innovate in an effort to attract and retain users with new and better products and services at low cost. This is exactly how markets should act. To punish these companies for their success would be to risk killing the proverbial geese that lay the U.S. economy’s golden eggs, which would only empower China and other foreign competitors while limiting a powerful business model for other industries in the future.”

This piece was written by David Kamioner on July 31, 2020. It originally appeared in LifeZette [3] and is used by permission.

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