Grilled by Lawmakers, Big Tech Turns Up the Gaslight

“I don’t know the specifics of that situation,” Mr. Bezos replied.

At one other level, Mr. Pichai, requested to clarify whether or not it was anticompetitive for Google to threaten to delist Yelp if it didn’t enable the firm’s search engine to make use of its listings in its featured snippets, mentioned he was “happy to engage and understand the specifics” at a later date. Yelp has complained publicly about Google’s search engine for years.

And confronted with emails acquired by House investigators wherein Apple workers promised to fast-track an organization by way of its App Store approval course of — a seeming contradiction of Mr. Cook’s assertion that it handled all builders equally — Mr. Cook responded, “I don’t know about that, sir.”

Give the executives this: It’s arduous to have nuanced conversations about complicated and infrequently technical matters in entrance of an viewers of hostile politicians, a few of whom appeared extra concerned with producing fiery clips for his or her Facebook pages than investigating antitrust issues. And the panel’s format — rapid-fire rounds of questioning performed over video convention, with every member given solely 5 minutes at a time to query the witnesses — almost assured that the dialog would stay surface-level.

In addition, many Republican members of the subcommittee appeared to have little interest in antitrust points in any respect, preferring as a substitute to journey partisan interest horses like claims of anti-conservative bias on social media.

But many Democratic members got here armed with actual, substantive questions that deserved a fuller airing. The executives’ option to sidestep these questions — or their incapability to reply earlier than being lower off — could sign that they nonetheless consider they will run circles round Congress with out participating in arduous, detailed conversations about how they train their energy.

That could have been an inexpensive conclusion to attract after the previous a number of years, a interval wherein Silicon Valley giants added a whole bunch of billions of in market worth whereas Washington barely gave it a passing look. Despite loads of clamoring, lawmakers have did not go any significant privateness or information safety legal guidelines throughout President Trump’s time in workplace, and Mr. Trump has proven little curiosity in any tech regulation that doesn’t contain his personal Twitter account.

But it’s much less clear say-nothing technique will proceed to work, now that lawmakers have begun doing their homework. Sure, some members of Congress should still want their iPhones defined to them, however there may be actual experience on Capitol Hill that wasn’t there even a 12 months in the past, and new allies who’re keen to present Congress the ammunition it wants.

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