Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai signaled that they are open to testifying to Congress as part of lawmakers' ongoing antitrust probe into the tech industry. File picture: Reuters
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai signaled that they are open to testifying to Congress as part of lawmakers' ongoing antitrust probe into the tech industry. File picture: Reuters

Facebook, Google chiefs open to testifying to Congress on antitrust

By Tony Romm Time of article published Jun 17, 2020

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Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai signaled that they are open to testifying to Congress as part of lawmakers' ongoing antitrust probe into the tech industry, while Apple has not agreed to send its leader.

The companies' commitments came in letters sent this weekend to the House Judiciary Committee, which has been investigating Big Tech since last year, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an investigation.

If lawmakers proceed as planned, the hearing could represent the most high-profile public grilling of the tech industry's most powerful chief executives, a made-for-television moment that comes as federal agencies continue to probe whether Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google threaten competition, and harm corporate rivals and consumers.

Facebook and Google declined to comment, while Apple did not respond to requests. A spokesman for Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who chairs the House's top antitrust panel, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In letters to committee leaders, Facebook and Google signaled they would dispatch their top executives as long as other tech giants' leaders participate, the sources said. Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos also has signaled that he will participate in the hearing, after the e-commerce giant initially resisted lawmakers' demands, The Washington Post reported this week. Bezos owns The Post.

Apple, meanwhile, told the committee that it would send a senior executive but did not clearly commit its leader, Tim Cook, to appearing before lawmakers, according to one of the people with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss it. That approach could increase tensions between the iPhone giant and lawmakers in Washington, who previously had threatened to issue a subpoena forcing Bezos to appear before Amazon ultimately expressed an openness to it.

House Democrats and Republicans embarked on their antitrust probe last year, hoping to scrutinize Silicon Valley's business practices and determine whether federal competition laws properly have kept pace. Cicilline, the leader of the inquiry, has said he aims to produce a report on the matter this year, and the document is expected to recommend new regulation or other action against Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google.

House leaders have requested an exhaustive list of documents from the four tech companies, seeking to study everything their past acquisitions their executives' private communications and more. In the meantime, lawmakers have given a public stage to news media groups, tech startups and other businesses that say their endeavors have suffered at the hands of Big Tech.

The congressional inquiry complements a slew of additional investigations underway at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. DOJ leaders are expected to file an antitrust case against Google this summer, with a similar lawsuit to follow from state attorneys general who are also probing the search and advertising giant.

The Washington Post

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