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The US’s top tech bosses were told they have “too much power”, are censoring political speech, spreading fake news and “killing” the engines of the American economy, at a combative congressional hearing on Wednesday.
The historic hearing in Washington saw Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sundar Pichai of Google’s parent Alphabet appear before members of the House judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee and face intense questioning from lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
The subcommittee has been investigating the companies’ dominance of the online world for over a year, collecting 1.3 million documents and conducting hundreds of hours of interviews. Already in the opening minutes, the subcommittee chairman, David Cicilline, struck a combative tone, pointing out that the companies dominate their respective spheres and accusing them of stifling competition. The complaints against the tech giants are varied but the overarching criticisms are that they have used their dominant position to quash rivals and overcharge the people and businesses reliant on their services.
“Our founders would not bow before a king,” the Rhode Island Democrat said. “Nor should we bow before the emperors of the online economy.”
Republican lawmakers at different times in the hearing directed the conversation away from antitrust to allegations of anti-conservative bias on the platforms, accusing the companies of silencing conservative voices and working to undo Donald Trump’s 2016 election win.