One company — Google-parent Alphabet Inc. — took more of lawmakers’ heat than the others (Apple, Amazon, and Facebook) as company leaders appeared on Wednesday before a House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust.
Sundar Pichai, the company’s chief executive, faced bipartisan criticism. He was hammered on the company’s digital ad business, privacy practices and policies toward working with the military.
Right off the bat, Rep. David Cicilline, the Democrat from Rhode Island who is leading the House’s investigation into big tech companies, zeroed in on the search giant. “Why does Google steal content from honest businesses?” Cicilline asked Pichai, who appeared over a video feed from a sparse and brightly beige office… Other lawmakers dug into Google, too. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, scrutinized Google’s relationship with China. When he got a second chance to ask questions, Gaetz accused Google of silencing conservative voices, a common refrain among GOP members of Congress. Rep. Greg Steube, also a Republican from Florida, brought up the theme of anti-conservative bias, too.
Pichai testified alongside Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Apple CEO Tim Cook. As the hearing got underway, lawmakers largely ignored Cook and Bezos — the world’s richest person — though the subcommittee members turned to Bezos more frequently as the hearing went on.
Of the four companies, Google is in the most imminent danger of antitrust action.
MacDailyNews Take: Of the four companies that participated at the hearing, there is one company that is really stifling competition: Google.
When one search engine has 86% share of the worldwide market (and Google basically isn’t even used in China), there is far, far, far too much power concentrated in one company. The whole concept of the World Wide Web is destroyed when a sole gatekeeper basically controls what gets seen, read, and heard. It’s not open, it’s completely closed and controlled.
Publishers who want to be read, for example, spend an inordinate amount of time making sure they follow Google’s dictates, nebulously sussed from Google’s secret algorithm, formatting their sites, even writing their articles a certain way, including certain words they might not choose if allowed to write freely, simply to please Google’s algorithm.
If Google doesn’t like a site (imagine a site that believes Google’s Android is a stolen product and says so repeatedly), Google can hurt that site by, say, excluding that site from the News tab on Google (since 2009), so that the site is more difficult to find, hurting that site’s traffic and ability to generate revenue. (Is there a lawsuit there? Someday we might find out.)
Hopefully, lawmakers can come together to figure out a way to do something to remedy the horribly uncompetitive situation in internet search. Google is, and has been for years, a perfect example of why antitrust laws exist.