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U.S. lawmakers slam Amazon, Facebook, and Google in antitrust hearing

Jul 17, 2019, 12:04 pm

Amazon was allegedly competing against its sellers and pushing them to buy advertising and fulfillment services. On Tuesday the lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel pressed an executive from Amazon for the same reason. It is not only Amazon that this allegation was against.

Legislators have also pressed Apple Inc for explanations for apps and in-app purchases, and Facebook it’s infamous privacy policy which changes rapidly these days. Google too is not out of this investigation as the lawmakers have also asked Google asking them to clarify whether its rivals are demoted in search results.

However, the question of whether this would be a hard-hitting test still remains as the committee does not have any authority or power to punish the companies, and in changing the antitrust laws would result in hurdles in the Republican-controlled Senate. Chairman of the antitrust committee, Representative David Cicilline, pressed Nate Sutton, an associate general counsel at Amazon about the allegations.

You said we do not consult data to compete with other sellers online. You do collect enormous data about prices, (and) what’s popular. You’re saying that you don’t use that in any way to promote Amazon products? I remind you, sir, you’re under oath – David Cicilline, Representative

Sutton defended saying, “The algorithms are optimized to what customers want to buy regardless of the seller.”

Matt Perault, head of global policy development at Facebook, in turn, asked to clarify as to who their competition was as it was “not readily apparent” to him. The lawmakers did not press Facebook about the proposed settlement of $5 billion with the FTC regarding the Cambridge Analytica fiasco.

Other congressional panels on Tuesday focused on Facebook’s plans to bring out a cryptocurrency called the Libra, and the allegations that Google is biased against the conservatives in search results. However, it is not like the entirety of Capitol Hiss is against the tech companies.

The Republicans have pushed back against a proposal from Senator Elizabeth Warren forcing Amazon, Facebook and Google to divest companies that they had purchased earlier. Representative Kelly Armstrong and Jim Sensenbrenner, both Republicans, cautioned the panel against going beyond the bounds of antitrust law.

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