Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google CEOs to testify in US Congress over antitrust issues

Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, which owns Google, and Facebook are four of the five biggest tech companies by market value. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - The chief executives of four of the world's biggest technology companies will appear before Congress this month as part of its sweeping antitrust investigation into their market power, according to the committee running the inquiry, setting up a high-profile face-off between the companies and skeptical lawmakers.

Mr Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mr Tim Cook of Apple, Mr Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Mr Sundar Pichai of Alphabet, which owns Google and YouTube, will appear at the hearing, said Ms Shadawn Reddick-Smith, a spokesman for the House Judiciary Committee, which is said to be nearing the end of its investigation.

The date has not been set, and it has not been decided whether the executives will appear in person or virtually, as has become common during the coronavirus pandemic, Ms Reddick Smith said.

The hearing will allow lawmakers to ask the executives about accusations of antitrust abuses at their companies, all of which are the focus of investigations by federal regulators or state attorneys general.

The executives are also likely to face questions about other issues, like Amazon's treatment of its warehouse workers or the spread of hate speech on Facebook and YouTube.

The hearing would be a central moment in the continuing backlash against the power of major tech companies.

Prosecutors at the Justice Department are preparing a possible antitrust case against Google this year, after an inquiry homed in on its control of advertising technology and the search engine market. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating Amazon's business and Facebook's acquisition of smaller companies.

A number of state attorneys general are investigating similar issues and could pursue their own actions or work with federal authorities.

It will be the first time that Mr Bezos will testify before Congress. Mr Zuckerberg, Mr Pichai and Mr Cook have appeared in front of Capitol Hill lawmakers before.

Alphabet, Facebook and Amazon declined to comment on the record about the committee's plans. An Apple spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The plans for the hearing were reported earlier by Ms Kara Swisher, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times.

The lawmakers' investigation has focused on different aspects of each business. They have raised many questions about Amazon's treatment of brands that sell products on its e-commerce site.

Much of the attention on Google has been on its lucrative ad business. With Apple, lawmakers have asked about how its App Store terms hurt developers. Their questions to Facebook have been largely about its use of past acquisitions to cement its dominance in social media.

Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook are four of the five biggest tech companies by market value. The fifth, Microsoft, has not been subjected to the same public scrutiny in recent years. It faced a landmark antitrust case a generation ago.

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