Most Americans use smartphones, shop online, and engage in social media usage. All of this appears great, but the underbelly of such an advanced economy has negative ramifications. The issue with these trends is highlighted in a recent congressional hearing which lambasted giant tech corporations for their monopolizing tendencies. Both Democrats and Republicans alike challenged companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google and their executives for using their market prowess to eliminate competition, store data, exploit consumers, and generate record breaking profits.
The hearing fixated on the monopolizing pasts of the corporations, as brought about by the antitrust committee. Democrats especially focused on the growing power and competition eliminating tendencies of these companies. They specifically drew upon an email exchange Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had when he was working to acquire Instagram back in 2012. In a message Zuckerberg described Instagram as a company that could “meaningfully hurt [Facebook]”. Representative Jerrold Nadler pointed out that “mergers and acquisitions that buy off potential competitive threats violate the antitrust laws,” continuing to say, “in your own words, you purchased Instagram to neutralize a competitive threat.” Zuckerberg responded to this attack with a statement proclaiming that Facebook competes hard, competes fairly, and strives to be the best.
Congressional Republicans adopted a different focus during the hearing, formulating claims that these companies had worked to actively suppress conservative voices on their platforms. A statement from Representative Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, noted that “We all think the free market is great. We think competition is great. We love the fact that these are American companies,”. “But what’s not great is censoring people, censoring conservators and trying to impact elections. And if it doesn’t end, there has to be consequences.” This sentiment is indicative of conservative individuals’ fears that their voices are being stifled.
Though Democrats and Republicans disagree on what their qualms with the tech giants are, it is clear that the American political realm is growing weary of such dominant voices in technology and the media. Some even suspect that it is a threat to our very democracy.
After nearly a 6 hour hearing, no charges were brought against the companies. Though it was made clear that they would continue to be monitored. Apple. Amazon, Facebook, and Google all maintained that their success rested upon hard work and American ingenuity, continuing that they never intentionally exploited others or violated antitrust provisions. This conflict is not yet over, however, and will likely continue to be an issue for the foreseeable future.