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Tech Antitrust Congressional Hearing -- Anyone watching?


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Bezos, Cook, Pichai, and Zukerberg brought in to testify on Big Tech antitrust issues.

Some interesting issues on the table -- I am not confident this kind of medium is the best place for anything to be really learned, rationally considered, transparently and earnestly approached, or any decisions to be made.

But the issues of the benefits and dangers of both tech affect us all, so I'll be watching just to hear what comes up and is said.

Anyone else watching?

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Jim Jordan opens his : "Big Tech is out to get Republicans." Talking about tweets that were allowed or not when Dorsey isn't even there.

This is why these hearings are ridiculous. Talk about the issues, don't make this a blatantly transparent partisan soapbox.

 

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3 minutes ago, Stompin' Tom Connors said:

Jim Jordan opens his : "Big Tech is out to get Republicans." Talking about tweets that were allowed or not when Dorsey isn't even there.

This is why these hearings are ridiculous. Talk about the issues, don't make this a blatantly transparent partisan soapbox.

 

never would have expected this from Jim Jordan.

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Cicilline asks a provocative leading question ("Why Does Google steal from small businesses?") then cuts him off less than 30 seconds into Pichai's answers.

There are some real issues about the pros and cons of Big Tech that would be fantastic to hear debated -- and here these tech leaders speak to the upside and downsides of their tech, business models, competition, etc. 

I don't know why I thought that would actually happen here.

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Paraphrasing:

Sensenbrenner: "ZUCKERBERG -- WHY WAS DONALD TRUMP SILENCED ON PROMOTING AN UNPROVEN DRUG FOR COVID!

Zuckerberg: "You may want to ask Twitter about that."

Sensenbrenner: "WHY AREN'T THE FACTS BEING ALLOWED TO BE HEARD!"

Zuckerberg: "Where was it proven that hydroxychloroquine was factually proven to be effective?"

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"Mr. Zuckerberg, what did you mean when you said Instagram was a threat?"

This is why a single word can get a CEO in trouble.

Interesting points on the Instagram acquisition. Can absolutely be seen as buying out a potential competitor, but Zuck with a good point that FTC reviewed and approved, and it was no guarantee that Instagram would have grown into what it was without investment and support via acquisition (e.g. there were many competitors at that time, and Instagram was nowhere near the business it was then, nor was guaranteed to be). If the FTC's ruling has no bearing on anti-trust considerations, perhaps that needs to be looked at as well.

Edited by Stompin' Tom Connors
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Q: Apple is sole arbitrator of what apps make it to the app store.

Cook: "If it's a native app, yes."

Q: Developers have no choice but to adhere to Apple's rules on apps in their store. Apple also discriminates about which of similar apps make it to the store, favoring one or the other. Some developers are favored over others.

Cook: "Rules apply evenly to everyone"

Q: Apple reduced commissions to some like Amazon Prime. Are reduced commissions available to all apps?"

Cook: "Available to anyone meeting the conditions."

Q: Is that Apple's payment processing services?

Cook: "Correct."

Q: "You collect data from purchasers, and doesn't that give you insight as to what profitable apps you can launch yourself? What's to stop Apple from increasing commissions to 50%?"

Cook: "We haven't raised commissions since store opened."

Some really good Q's here.

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Recess for 10 minutes to fix a technical feed issue with a witness.

At a big tech hearing.

Where is the CEO of the conferencing platform Congress is using, and why aren't they being raked over the coals?

 

ETA: That platform was Cisco. Chuck Robbins to the courtesy phone.

Edited by Stompin' Tom Connors
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Bezos finally facing some q's in his first ever Congressional hearing. Around internal staff having access to third party seller data.

Bezos saying there are policies around how the data is used, but not exactly convincing on the controls in place, or being given a chance to say what that data is being used for.

"You have access to data your competitors don't have, and set the rules for the competitors on your platform."

 

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Congressman Steube asking why he sees variability in seeing his favorite conservative sites as top search return, and why his email is going to his constituents spam folders.

"This is only happening to conservative Republicans."

Way to focus on the larger issues, Greg. 

ETA: It was his dad having the email issue. Not his constituents. Could it be, Greg, that your Dad (likely in his 60s) has zero idea how to manage his gmail?

 

Edited by Stompin' Tom Connors
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Need to get to the heart of privacy and personalization.

Personalization needs ongoing user data across multiple surfaces to work reliably and the way it truly can "delight" customers.

At the same time it is concerning how much data is being captured, used, seen, stored.

This is a fascinating tension and what we should know (and have more control over and insight into) is what policies and controls these companies' have and should have, and what guarantees and controls users can and should have about the use of that data.

This is wholly separate from antitrust, but not going to be addressed.

Instead, Jim Jordan: "Will Google help Joe Biden in the next election?" Durrrrrrr

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Zuckerberg email of buying up competitors brought up against him.

Again, for you CEOs out there, being very careful about the words you say and type is very important. Anything you say can and will be used against you.

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I don't have a lot of experience watching these, but I guess congressional hearings work like this:

Congressperson gets 5 mins. They talk and throw out fact, opinion, wild conjecture, and grandstand for 4:45 mins and leave 15 seconds (during which they interrupt) for those facing the committee to answer. "My time is short."

Congresswoman McBath: "I am concerned that one 3rd party who complains represents a pattern of danger. that 3rd party sellers can''t succeed."

Bezos: "3rd party sellers make up 60% of unit sales in our retail business."

 

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Cicilline: "Your documents say you consider 3rd party sellers as competitors. You compete directly with your 3rd parties."

The premise of this anti-trust hearing is that these companies are so big that they don't operate in a healthy competitive environment.

This committee seems to be undermining its own hearing.

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11 minutes ago, Stompin' Tom Connors said:

I don't have a lot of experience watching these, but I guess congressional hearings work like this:

Congressperson gets 5 mins. They talk and throw out fact, opinion, wild conjecture, and grandstand for 4:45 mins and leave 15 seconds (during which they interrupt) for those facing the committee to answer. "My time is short."

I'm not even sure why the CEOs are there.  They could just replace them with cardboard cutouts of them for the questioners to launch their opinion against and then not let respond.

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Congresswomen Jayapal: "Does Facebook copy features from other companies?"

Zuckerberg: "We adapt features we see people like, just as other companies copy things that Facebook and other companies do."

Jayapal: "I am not concerned with what other companies do."

Okaaaaaay?

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OK this accusation that Amazon pretends to be interested in startup companies just so they can get info to re-make the products themselves and then abruptly cuts off talks with the original company is actually pretty messed up if true.

Edited by FreeBaGeL
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1 minute ago, glvsav37 said:

Now we are dragging Pop Sockets into this!! Man, way to go after the big issues. 

It's a misguided approach.

The larger issue of slave labor in manufacturing in products sold and counterfeit goods proliferating marketplaces is something that should be earnestly discussed.

Not sure it's going to happen in this forum.

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4 minutes ago, FreeBaGeL said:

OK this accusation that Amazon pretends to be interested in startup companies just so they can get info to re-make the products themselves and then abruptly cuts off talks with the original company is actually pretty messed up if true.

Agree, and the WSJ seemed to do a thorough reporting job across dozens of entrepreneurs.

At the same time, the FTC has measures for addressing these allegations, and would think that any valid claim that Amazon did misuse intellectual property would be brought to court.

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Congressman Raskin: "When I ask Alexa to buy batteries, it asks if I want to buy Amazon Basic brand AA batteries."

I am willing to bet a pack of 4 D cells that Raskin would buy that Basic brand anyway as they are much cheaper than what he can buy them for in his local bodega in Maryland.

We can debate how Amazon is able to source and sell batteries cheaper (which I don't think is controversial or limited to just Amazon). I do think Alexa surfacing me the cheapest option (and still leaving the option to me whether I buy it or not) is a feature, not a bug.

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@Stompin' Tom Connors thanks for the snippets. I had to tap out for a bit. NIce to catch up. 

Agreed it was comical watching some of these folks attach tech icons when most of the politicians likely get locked out of their own phones/computers on a weekly basis. 

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Congressman Johnson getting to the issue of counterfeit goods now and how these are kept off of Amazon and other sites.

This is an important issue, and should be addressed. I also wonder how deeply a company like Amazon can feasibly be responsible or police this at 100%.

Bezos: This is a scourge and is a source of losing trust with customers. We've spent millions of dollars and have a team of thousands dedicated to just this, Project Zero. We prosecute those we find, and request this body to make more stringent penalty and enforcement of this to help.

Johnson: But what are you doing about it? And what about Popsockets?

Edited by Stompin' Tom Connors
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Johnson: "Companies who pay extra get their products pushed up in rankings, Is that fair?"

Um, that's how retail has worked in brick and mortar since day 1 with premium placements, co-op spend, endcap/POP displays, etc.

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Armstrong: "Amazon uses aggregate data to inform them of 3rd party sales. Doesn't this give you a competitive advantage?"
Bezos: "It's aggregate data. By that very definition, we can't see or know who any one 3rd party seller in that data is."

 

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Demings: "Zuckerberg -- you said in 2012 you enforce policies against competitors more strongly."

Zuckerberg: "We had policies in the past that protected us from competitors, worried against larger competitors, and we have changed that policy."

Again, Zuck, watch what you are saying.

And Demings, maybe you can bring up a salient point that's not nearly a decade old?

Edited by Stompin' Tom Connors
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Demings: "Apple remove apps that helped parents track kids, do you remember why you did that?"

Cook: "Yes, those apps used a technology MDM that put kids data at risk."

Demings: "OK, what about the apps you allowed from a Saudi Arabian company?"

:mellow:

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12 minutes ago, Stompin' Tom Connors said:

Armstrong: "Amazon uses aggregate data to inform them of 3rd party sales. Doesn't this give you a competitive advantage?"
Bezos: "It's aggregate data. By that very definition, we can't see or know who any one 3rd party seller in that data is."

 

Armstrong: answer the question!

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Scanlon: "Seems like you are targeting kids with a product, then targeting advertisers to target those kids."

Pichai: "We have products dedicated to kids and tools for advertisers to reach the desired customers for their products."

In other words, this is how advertising works.

Scanlon: "If Sesame Street doesn't want to show junk food ads to kids, can you respect that on YouTube?"

Pichai: "Yes."

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It’s quite clear we need to totally reorganize our legislative branch. We need to elect people based on areas of expertise, not just where they live. We need people with actual knowledge and insight. A tech committee ran by people who have a clue is a start. 

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Neguse: "You refer to broad all encompassing definition of retail -- restaurants, etc. How much of the online market share do you have?"
Bezos: "40%"
Neguse: "OK, that matches figures I have."

Great use of time, Neguse.

Neguse: "Does AWS proactively identify growing businesses on AWS and build competing services?"
Bezos: "We meet customers needs. We also have customers using AWS -- and competitors using AWS -- and we work hard to ensrue they are successful. Netflix, Hulu, etc."

Neguse: umm...let me ask another q....

Neguse: "What about the Alexa Fund? You gain access to Crowdcorps' startup IP and then launched products exactly doing what this entrepreneur product does."

Bezos: "I don't have info on that specific startup, will get back to you."

Ah, finally a good question. This will be an interesting story to watch.

 

 

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McBath: "Apple released Screentime app to control kids' phone usage. Other apps existed did that. When Screentime launched, you removed these other apps from the app store. Why?"

Cook: "We were concerned about the privacy and security of kids and the use of MDM. There are also over 30 competing apps on there."

OK that seems specious - why let them on in the first place then? Also a good point from Cook that there is still competing apps there.

McBath: "You let some of those apps back in without requiring security changes 6 months later."

Solid point McBath.

McBath: "Why didn't you let Random House's app when you launched iBooks? That pressured Random House to have to join iBooks."

Cook: "There are many reasons why an app gets rejected in terms of operational stability, security, etc."

 

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This is all theater. None of these legislators have any real clue what they’re talking about and make the entire thing a joke. There are really significant really serious issues that affect all of society that should be addressed and looked into and Congress is not in any way equipped to handle it.

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13 minutes ago, Ilov80s said:

It’s quite clear we need to totally reorganize our legislative branch. We need to elect people based on areas of expertise, not just where they live. We need people with actual knowledge and insight. A tech committee ran by people who have a clue is a start. 

Good luck with the average age of legislators. My 4 year old is better using an ipad that my parents. Maybe in 20-30 years it will be more dominated by people who are more knowledgeable about technology. 

Edited by huthut
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"Zuckerberg, you allowed a post with untruths about COVID for 5 hours that got millions of views before taking it down, which you profit from."

Zuck: "We took it down, and we don't profit from likes."

Wrong question, right line -- what controls and stringent oversight in policing posts exist, and how are you working to reduce them, and the time from them being posted to being removed?

 

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