Almost any moment of the four-hour hearing offered a stunning illustration of the extent of the bad behavior by these corporations. Take Amazon, whose CEO, Jeff Bezos, often seemed off-balance and unaware of his corporation’s own practices. Congresswoman Lucy McBath played audio of a seller on Amazon tearfully describing how her business and livelihood was arbitrarily destroyed by Amazon restricting sales of their product, for no reason the seller could discern. Bezos acted surprised, as he often did. Representative Jamie Raskin presented an email from Bezos saying about one acquisition that: “We’re buying market position not technology.” Bezos then admitted Amazon buys companies purely because of their “market position”, demonstrating that many of hundreds of acquisitions these tech companies have made were probably illegal.
Mark Zuckerberg had to confront his own emails in which he noted that Facebook’s purchase of Instagram was done to buy out a competitor. His response was that he didn’t remember, but that he imagined he was probably joking when he wrote that. [Congresswoman Val Demings] asked Zuckerberg why he restricted Facebook’s tools for competitors like Pinterest, but not for non-competitors like Netflix. He had no answer. Congressman David Cicilline asked about Facebook promoting incendiary speech and making money off advertising sold next to that speech. Zuckerberg pivoted to free speech talking points, and Cicilline cut him off, “This isn’t a speech issue, it’s about your business model.”
Big tech’s dominance has serious consequences. America has lost thousands of media outlets because of the concentration of ad revenue in the hands of Google and Facebook; two-thirds of American counties now have no daily newspaper. The nation lost 100,000 independent businesses from 2000 to 2015, a drop of 40%, many due to Amazon’s exploitation of legal advantages from the avoidance of sales tax to its apparent violation of antitrust laws in underpricing rivals. Hundreds of thousands of merchants now depend on Amazon’s platform to sell goods, and Amazon has systemically hiked fees on them. Just a few years ago these third-party merchants paid 19% of their revenue to Amazon, now it’s up to 30%, which is, coincidentally, the amount Apple demands from hundreds of thousands of app makers who have to reach iPhone users. It’s no secret why small business formation has collapsed since the last financial crisis; these giant platforms tax innovation.
Matt Stoller on the.
It’s worth endlessly repeating that a large number of the business practices companies like Facebook and Amazon use to secure power, particularly the acquisition of rivals, are likely already illegal. It’s just the laws haven’t been enforced for, like, nearly two decades, basically as a direct result of neoliberal US government policies. And now… this.