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What to expect from tech’s historic antitrust showdown with Congress

Chief execs from four of the world’s most powerful business will attack the immense conglomerates they’ve built in testament before Congress on Wednesday.

In a hearing held by the House’s Antitrust Subcommittee, Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Sundar Pichai and Mark Zuckerberg will all face a matter of how their business practices propelled them into the market-dominant heavyweights they are today. Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook make up four of top six most valued public firms in existence and are widely regarded as reshaping the consumer world, both within the tech industry and beyond.

The event will begin at 12 PM ET and may lope the working day, given the breadth of relevant topics and the four very different, deeply influential tech business that we’ll be hearing from. Here’s what to expect from the large-scale day.

Tech’s top Ceos will face Congress in antitrust hearing now mounted for Wednesday

What’s the big deal?

There have been quite a few Congressional hearings examining tech business in recent years, but generally those companies send their lead counsel — not their CEOs.

When a tech CEO appears before Congress it’s a sign that whatever they’re testifying about poses a real enough threat to their business that it’s better to plaza nice with lawmakers rather than blowing them off.

While Tim Cook, Sundar Pichai and Mark Zuckerberg has already been witnessed before Congress before — Pichai in 2018, Zuckerberg in 2018 and 2019 and Tim Cook style back in 2013 — this will be the first time Jeff Bezos has agreed to come before Congress. Given the amount of concerns lawmakers have expressed over Amazon in recent years, that’s a big deal.

Who’s running the establish?

The hearing is being coordinated by the House Judiciary’s Antitrust Subcommittee, a subsection of the broader House committee that focuses on antitrust controversies, amongst other topics. Because it’s in the House, the subcommittee is controlled by Democrats and is helmed by David Cicilline, a pre-eminent and serious critic of big-hearted tech business. It’s worth noting that Val Demings, who is currently being considered as Joe Biden’s running mate, is among the Democratic members.

On the Republican side, Jim Sensenbrenner is the ranking member. The outspoken Trump supporter Matt Gaetz too serves on its scientific and technical subcommittee and we can expect to hear a lot from him for intellects we’ll get into it a little bit.

What is this all about?

The title of the hearing is” Online Platforms and Market Power, Part 6: Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google .” Five previous hearings were also part of the subcommittee’s year-long antitrust investigation into digital sells, touching on issues like data privacy, innovation, the free press and competition. Expect all of those directions to come up at Wednesday’s hearing.

What the hearing is about and what will end up being the focus could be two different things, depending on how well Cicilline is able to rein things in as the subcommittee’s chair. As we were mentioned, Florida Republican Matt Gaetz has signaled his interest in steering the four tech CEOs to the less substantive but more politically expedient topic of anti-conservative bias in tech.

Earlier this week, Gaetz made a criminal referral to the Justice Department that accused Mark Zuckerberg of lying in his 2018 witnes to Congress when he said Facebook does not have a bias against reactionaries. The issue of anti-conservative bias is a favorite among Trump-friendly Republican, and Gaetz is likely to veer away from very real concerns over anti-competitive behavior among tech companies toward unproven bias claims.

Will they certainly say anything beneficial?

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline stressed the importance that the tech CEOs are “forthcoming” on Wednesday, emphasizing the” central persona these organizations play in the lives of the American beings .” While it would serve these companies to appear transparent and not evasive, the testimony is likely to be a careful combination of the two.

In past expressions, tech CEOs have been criticized for being tight-lipped, provide only robotic refutes and have committed themselves to ” get back ” to members of Congress every other question. We can expect more of this Wednesday, though the tint and efficacy of the hearing will really depending on who’s asking the questions and how well lawmakers coordinate their ways of inquiry.

Which is why i Twitter? Microsoft?

Last week, House Republican led by Jim Jordan called on Twitter to appear at tech’s big antitrust hearing, claiming that the day would be ” imperfect” without an look from Jack Dorsey. Dorsey has made appearances before Congress before, but the new seek was rightfully ignored.

While often promoted to the status of peer companies like Facebook and YouTube, Twitter is a relatively small company with an outsized impact on society — and one not suspected of market-shaping practices that have been able to box challengers out. To keep it in perspective: Twitter’s grocery capital is $29 billion; Facebook’s is $667 billion.

Compared to Twitter, Microsoft is massive and a more natural fit for the hearing but the company has a much more storied record of government inquiry. Cicilline himself said that regulatory imposition against Microsoft two decades ago” impelled room for an enormous amount of added innovation and rival .”

Depending on who you ask, U.S. regulatory tries against Microsoft either presaged an era of regulatory overreach or failed to be little more than a slap on the wrist. Sound familiar?

How do I watch it?

We’ll be watching the hearing and reporting on it, so check back for our coverage and analysis throughout the day. If you’re keen to sit through it yourself, we’ve embedded a YouTube link below that should work when the livestream begins on Wednesday, July 29 at 12 PM ET.

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