Photo: Mount Associated Press
Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Tim Cook (Apple), Sundar Pichai (Alphabet, parent company of Google) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) will speak by videoconference to the u.s. Congress on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, in less than 100 days to the presidential election, the american congressmen will question four of the bosses of the most iconic in the world, the leaders of the giants of the technology, an industry that has until now largely escaped the control of the authorities of the country.
The judicial commission investigation into possible abuse of dominant position by the GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple), and on the relevance of the antitrust laws existing and their application.
Sundar Pichai (Alphabet, parent company Google), Tim Cook (Apple), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) will speak, via videoconference, pandemic coronavirus requires. The questions of the elect will be listened to as carefully as the responses of the bosses. Indeed, in the context of general distrust with respect to Facebook, the politicians of all stripes might be tempted to take especially in the social network, which they accuse of being lax in the moderation of content and having too much influence on election campaigns.
At the risk of straying from the theme of the competition. “These hearings are used mainly for members of Congress to designate the guilty, and to make a speech to their constituency,” says Douglas Melamed, professor of law at the University of Stanford, ” but this time, it could be different.”
For the past year, the u.s. department of Justice, the consumer protection agency and States have also launched investigations on the GAFA. To the right, as on the left, the pressure mounts against the economic and political power of digital platforms, made more essential than ever in the daily life by the pandemic COVID-19.
And more rich also. Between march and June, the billionaires, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg have accumulated respectively 43.7 and $ 32 billion of additional dollars, according to a study by a think-tank american campaigner for tax justice.
Beyond the casting tempting, some analysts wonder whether it is necessary to put in the same basket of companies with different. “I expect more of an audience very theatrical than concrete results “, said Carolina Milanesi, of Creative Strategies. “The companies will just understand that they have interest to make some concessions in order to avoid tighter controls. “
Apple and Amazon are accused of being judges and parties on their platforms, the App Store for a and the e-commerce site to the other. “It is as if I had a store in a shopping center and the owner of the centre was setting up a shop in front of mine, to sell the same products as me, and lower prices “, said Mike Massey, the owner of a brand of sports equipment from The New Orleans, during a press conference organized by Athena, a consortium of associations anti-Amazon.
Google and Facebook, themselves, take the bulk of the advertising revenue digital world. The interactions of users with their services ” free of charge “, and widely dominant, allow them to establish consumer profiles and sell advertising space ultraciblés on a very large scale. But the GAFA also have points in common. Born in the “Wild West” american, they are widely extended beyond their core business, cloud computing, and entertainment, to shots of new projects and acquisitions. They are especially masters in the art of harvest and exploit personal data, the engine of the digital economy. Difficult for other actors to compete in these conditions.
No ” miracle solution “
But “if the data have been obtained lawfully, to build better products, it is considered a sign of efficiency,” notes Douglas Melamed. Parliamentarians must therefore determine whether the four giants dominate thanks to illegal practices, aiming to crush all competition.
In contrast to the european authorities, the United States were rather cautious on the issue. “Our laws are less conducive to the application of sanctions, and it is this faith generally in the ability of markets to regulate itself “, emphasizes Harry First, a professor of law at New York University. “The regulators are cautious because they don’t like losing before the courts,” says this former director of the department antitrust attorney in New York.
The american law, as it has been applied in recent years, requires, in order to authorize action against the companies, that their activities are clearly damaging to consumers, leading to a rise in prices, for example. Hence the second question asked, implicitly, to the judicial commission : should it enact new laws ?
Even in the event of a positive response, it will undoubtedly be necessary to wait for the next Congress, after the elections of the end of the year. A new law “would probably have more of a chance to solve the problem, but it will take time to interpret it,” stresses Harry First. “This is not a miracle solution. “
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