Congress Used the Antitrust Hearing To Peddle Petty Grievances Against Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google
The top executives of four major tech companies—Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google—were hauled before Congress on Wednesday; each accused of being an online monopoly that may require government action.
Math, as the $26 trillion national debt might suggest, is not exactly Congress’ strong suit.
One thing Congress is quite good at, however, is putting on a show—and Wednesday’s hearing of the House Judiciary Committee was more about theatrics than seriously considering the use of antitrust law. Perhaps that’s because it’s somewhat ridiculous to argue with a straight face that Google or Amazon are actually monopolies, or because it’s quite obvious that consumers who dislike Apple’s or Facebook’s products are perfectly free to give their time, money, and business to competitors on or off the web.
If lawmakers were serious about applying antitrust powers to big tech companies, they’d have to demonstrate that consumers are being actively harmed by anti-competitive behavior. Instead, it quickly became apparent that the real purpose of the hearing was political power.
“I’ll just cut to the chase: Big Tech is out to get conservatives,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R–Ohio), the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee. He accused Amazon, Google, and Facebook (and Twitter, which wasn’t even represented at Wednesday’s hearing) of taking political actions that he disliked. “The power these companies have to impact what happens during an election, what American citizens get to see before voting is pretty darn important,” he said, “That’s why this committee hearing is important.”
That criticism went both ways. A short while later, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D–Md.), who labeled the four CEOs “cyber barons” at one point, complained about Facebook supposedly helping Republicans win elections.
It’s almost as if partisans are using the threat of antitrust action to try to force tech firms to take sides. Antitrust laws, it’s important to note, do not allow Congress to break up a
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