Web giants ‘stealing content from honest businesses’
Web giant Google was accused of "stealing content from honest businesses" and Facebook slammed for censoring conservative voices in a dramatic Congressional hearing.
Four of the world's most powerful tech titans were being grilled by a US House antitrust committee seeking to limit the overwhelming power their sprawling companies share.
It was the first such appearance by Amazon's Jeff Bezos, who is the world's richest man, while Alphabet's Sundar Pichai, Apple's Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook have previously testified in the Capitol.
The historic hearing, which brought together the chiefs of four of the five most valuable American companies, focused on their growing power, anticompetitive behaviour and allegations that conservative social media posts are being censored.
It came at a seminal time for the industry, one of few which is expected to not only weather the effects of the coronavirus but to increase its profit through people's increased reliance on online activity.
"Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, these corporations already stood out as titans in our economy," said Committee chair David Cicilline.
"In the wake of COVID-19...they're likely to emerge stronger and more powerful than ever before.
"Any single action by one of these companies can affect hundreds of millions of us in profound and lasting ways.
"Simply put: They have too much power.
"Their ability to dictate terms, call the shots, up-end entire sectors, and inspire fear represent the powers of a private government. Our founders would not bow before a king. Nor should we bow before the emperors of the online economy."
Mr Pichai offered vague answers when he was pressed on the predatory business practices of Google, which is owned by Alphabet.
Mr Cicilline said evidence showed that the search site "pursued a multipronged attack" and had become a "walled garden which keeps users on its sites."
He cited the experience of the review site Yelp, which says Google harvested its restaurant reviews and threatened to "delist" the site when the smaller company complained.
Mr Cicilline said this meant Google said: "Let us steal your content or effectively disappear from the web".
"Isn't that uncompetitive?" he asked.
Mr Pichai responded: "We are really focused on giving our users what they want… We are really focused on improving our products."
Google's behaviour had been "economically catastrophic" for many small businesses, given that more than 60 per cent of searches conducted sent users to a Google product.
"As Google became the gateway to the internet it began to abuse its power," said Mr Cicilline.
"Any business that wants to be found on the web must pay google a tax."
Republican Jim Jordan said each of the four companies was responsible for "trying to impact elections" and "censoring conservatives".
"I'll just cut to the chase, Big Tech's out to get conservatives," said Mr Jordan.
US President Donald Trump renewed his criticism of the big tech firms, which he says are too powerful, saying ahead of the hearing that he would act if Congress didn't.
"If Congress doesn't bring fairness to Big Tech, which they should have done years ago, I will do it myself with Executive Orders," he tweeted.
"In Washington, it has been ALL TALK and NO ACTION for years, and the people of our Country are sick and tired of it!"
Originally published as Web giant 'stealing content from honest businesses'