Don’t Trust Big Tech, Hold Them Accountable
Last month, four Big Tech CEOs – Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Google’s Sundar Pichai and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg – testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law.
Members of the Antitrust subcommittee conducted an oversight hearing in a bipartisan manner and clearly demonstrated that Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook have engaged in anti-competitive behavior.
As they fumbled through the hearing, the CEOs made commitments to get back to members later and in other cases made big promises that will be hard for them to keep. Jeff Bezos repeatedly evaded questions about a bombshell report from the Wall Street Journal published nearly four months ago that investigated anti-competitive behavior at the company. Instead, Bezos committed to “continue to look into that very carefully,” and after an internal review, share results with the committee. At a company that values a “bias for action,” led by an executive that boasts “high-velocity decisions” (or in plain English, speedy decisions), it remains unclear why it is taking the tech giant so much time to “look into” these practices.
All four CEOs committed to prohibiting products manufactured using slave labor and improving gender and racial equity in their senior leadership staff. Tim Cook vaguely committed not to profiteer off the pandemic. Others succumbed to conservative pressure: Sundar Pichai stumbled through a line of questioning about Google’s political biases, ultimately committing to “not configure Google to help Joe Biden” or to silence conservatives. Mark Zuckerberg committed to getting back to members about the steps Facebook is taking to address anti-conservative bias, as Jeff Bezos agreed to abandon the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Below is a list of the 35 commitments the CEOs made throughout the hearing. While Public Citizen does not necessarily accept the premise of the questions from all members, or endorse all of the commitments made, we have documented every observed commitment throughout the hearing.
Since the CEOs are unwilling to hold themselves and their companies accountable, join us in keeping the pressure on and holding the leaders of the world’s richest companies to their word.
|Questioner||Witness||What the witness committed to||Question||Response from Witness||Timestamp|
|Jayapal||Jeff Bezos (Amazon)||Continue internal investigation of Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon accesses data on third party sellers||An article in the Wall Street Journal revealed that your company does access data on third party sellers both by reviewing data on popular individual sellers and products, and by creating tiny product categories that allowed your company to "categorically" access detailed seller information in a supposedly category. Do you deny that report?||I'm familiar with the Wall Street Journal article that you're talking about. We continue to look into that very carefully. I'm not yet satisfied that we've gotten to the bottom of it, and we're going to keep looking at it.||1:52|
|MacBath||Jeff Bezos (Amazon)||Speak to this small business owner who has been banned from Amazon and follow up with office about the case||You referred to third party sellers today as Amazon's partners, and that your success depend on their success. But over the past year, we've heard a completely different story... I'm going to share the story of a small business owner... Do you think this is an acceptable way to treat someone that you describe as both a partner and a customer?||No, Congresswoman, and I appreciate that you showed me that anecdote. I would like to talk to her. It does not at all to me seem like the right way to treat her... I don't even understand what's going on in that anecdote because we would love for third party sellers to sell books. I would like to understand it better. With your permission, I would love to get back in touch with your office.||2:27|
|Cicilline||Jeff Bezos (Amazon)||Share results of internal investigation into reports that Amazon is sharing third party data to inform its own private label line||You said you can't guarantee that the policy of not sharing third party seller data with Amazon's own line hasn't been violated. Can you please list examples where that policy has been violated? Why should a third party sellers list their product on Amazon if they're just going to be undercut by Amazon's product as a result of data you take from them?||We're investigating that, and I do not want to sit here and I do not want to go beyond what I know right now, but we are, as a result of that Wall Street Journal article, we are looking at that very carefully and we will surely share them with you.||2:37|
|Buck||Jeff Bezos (Amazon)||Not use slave labor, nor allow products manufactured using slave labor on platform||Will you agree that slave labor is not something you will tolerate in manufacturing your products, or in products that are sold on your platforms?||Yes, I agree completely.||2:52|
|Raskin||Jeff Bezos (Amazon)||Get back to Congressman on leveraging access to living rooms to get creative content in HBO Max negotiations||[In your HBO Max negotiations,] you are using your control over access to people's living rooms in order to obtain leverage in terms of getting creative content that you want. Are you essentially converting power in one domain into power in another domain where it doesn't belong?||I think what I should do is offer to get you information. I'll get it to your office for you. I'm not familiar enough with this.||2:56|
|Johnson||Jeff Bezos (Amazon)||Get back to Congressman on Amazon using knock offs as leverage to pressure sellers to do what Amazon wants||We've heard from numerous third party sellers and brand owners that Amazon has used knock offs as leverage to pressure sellers to do what Amazon wants... What is your explanation of that business practice?||That's unacceptable. If those are the facts – if someone somewhere inside Amazon said, "Buy X$ in ads and then we're help you with your counterfeit problem", that is unacceptable, and I will look into that and we'll get back to your office with that.||3:18|
|Armstrong||Jeff Bezos (Amazon)||Inform the committee on outcome of internal investigation into this Wall Street Journal article||Will you commit to informing this committee on the outcome of that investigation including on the exact circumstances of when Amazon is allowed to use and/or view aggregate data.||Yes, we will do that.||3:45|
|Armstrong||Jeff Bezos (Amazon)||Get back to Congressman about whether Twitch should license music||My understanding is that Twitch allows users to stream music but doesn't license the music... If Twitch is responding to DMCA notice and take down requirements, should Twitch consider proactively licensing music instead of retroactively adhering to those notices?||I'm going to have to ask, then I can get back to your office with the answer to that question. I don't know.||3:45|
|Neguse||Jeff Bezos (Amazon)||Get back to Congressman on AWS identifying startups and technologies and rolling out replicas||We've also heard that Amazon's cloud computing arm, AWS, essentially identifies startups and technologies and rolls out replica products and services... Are you aware of those allegations?||I read that article but I didn't remember that piece of it. I apologize for that. I don't know the specifics of that situation, and I would be happy to get back to your office with more information about that.||4:08|
|Gaetz||Jeff Bezos (Amazon)||Get back to Congressman about better sources than Southern Poverty Law Center||You don't believe Dr. Ben Carson is an extremist, do you? So help me understand why you would partner with a group that labels him as someone worthy of an extremist watch list?||I accept what you're saying, that Southern Poverty Law Center and the U.S. Foreign Asset Office are not perfect, and I would like a better source if we can get it, that is what we use today. I would happily get you the information.||4:49|
|MacBath||Jeff Bezos (Amazon)||Improve racial and gender equity in senior leadership||Can each of you simply commit to improving racial and gender equity at your companies, including Black leadership, and women in your senior ranks?||Absolutely, yes.||5:21|
|MacBath||Jeff Bezos (Amazon)||Get back to Congresswoman about whether Amazon requires sellers to provide a real name and address||Do you require a real name and address from sellers?||I believe we do. But let me get back to your office – I'd rather give you the accurate answer, and I think we do.||5:25|
|MacBath||Jeff Bezos (Amazon)||Report all sales of stolen and counterfeit goods to law enforcement||Will you commit to reporting all sales of stolen and counterfeit goods to law enforcement? And to victims to track large scale offenders engaged in organized retail crime?||I see no reason why if we're aware of stolen goods, we wouldn't report it. We would want the correct law enforcement authorities to be involved.||5:26|
|Buck||Tim Cook (Apple)||Not use slave labor, nor allow products manufactured using slave labor on platform||Will you agree that slave labor is not something you will tolerate in manufacturing your products, or in products that are sold on your platforms?||We wouldn't tolerate it. We would terminate a supplier relationship if it were found.||2:51|
|Demings||Tim Cook (Apple)||Get back to congresswoman on why Apple kept Saudi Arabian app, while kick another one off||So there are two types of apps. They use the same tool. Apple kicks one out and said that it was helping parents, but keeps the one owned by a powerful government. If that is correct, Mr. Cook, why would you keep the one owned by a powerful government?||I'd like to look into this and get back with your office.||3:52|
|Nadler||Tim Cook (Apple)||Not monetizing online learning tools during the pandemic||School is about to start across the country. Millions of parents and students will attend school online. They will rely on apps to talk to teachers, tutors, and virtual learning tools. Are these online learning tools on Apple's list to monetize?||They are not, Mr. Chairman. We're very proud of what we've done in education. We are serving that market in a significant way including tons of donations and we will work with people that happen to move from a physical to a virtual world because of the pandemic.||4:41|
|Neguse||Tim Cook (Apple)||Get back to Congressman on why Apple adheres to different rules than it requires of other app developers||We've reviewed the guidelines and they precisely say that app developers should have original ideas; copycat ideas aren't fair; Apple's customers don't want those. On the other hand, the app developer agreement, which you require every developer to agree to, does give Apple the right to copy other apps. Why one rule for the developers that compete with you, and the opposite rule for Apple?||Congressman, I'm not familiar with that but I can follow up with your office on it.||5:16|
|MacBath||Tim Cook (Apple)||Improve racial and gender equity in senior leadership||Can each of you simply commit to improving racial and gender equity at your companies, including Black leadership, and women in your senior ranks?||Yes, I am very personally committed.||5:21|
|Buck||Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)||Not use slave labor, nor allow products manufactured using slave labor on platform||Will you agree that slave labor is not something you will tolerate in manufacturing your products, or in products that are sold on your platforms?||I agree, we wouldn't tolerate this and if we found anything like this, we would also terminate any relationship.||2:52|
|Steube||Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)||Get back to Congressman with list of conservative groups Facebook consults when developing policies for content review||What are some of those outside groups [you consult with when developing new policies for content review] that would be conservative leaning?||Congressman, I need to get back to you with a list of specific groups, but it would depend on what the topic is.||3:14|
|Gaetz||Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)||Get back to Congressman on what steps Facebook took to root out bias against conservative viewpoints on platform||Following that release of those videos and that evidence from Project Veritas, will you then describe the investigation that Facebook undertook to root out these very corrosive effects [of bias against conservative viewpoints] on your platform?||Congressman, I have to get back to you with more details on that. But I know that we have ongoing training in what we do, and we certainly will look into any complaints that come up.||3:55|
|Johnson||Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)||Get back to Congressman with details about Facebook Research App||In response to Congressman Johnson's questions before, I said that I wasn't familiar with the Facebook Research App. While I wasn't familiar with that name for it, I just want to be clear that I do recall that we used an app for research, and it has since been discontinued. I would be happy to follow up with his staff on any more details that he would like on that.||5:14|
|MacBath||Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)||Improve racial and gender equity in senior leadership||Can each of you simply commit to improving racial and gender equity at your companies, including Black leadership, and women in your senior ranks?||Yes||5:21|
|Gaetz||Sundar Pichai (Google)||Not adopt anti-police policies||To the law enforcement that are watching today, can they rest assured that under your leadership, Google will not adopt bigoted, anti-police policies?||Congressman, we are committed to continuing to work with law enforcement in a way that's consistent with law and due processes in the U.S.||1:22|
|Gaetz||Sundar Pichai (Google)||Get back to Congressman on work Google does in China||General Dunford says that your company is directly aiding the Chinese military, and Peter Thiel ... said that Google's activities in China are treasonous... If you have no problem making the J-20 Chinese fighter more effective in its targeting, why wouldn't you want to make America as effective?||Congressman, with respect, we are not working with the Chinese military. That's absolutely false. I had the chance to meet with General Dunford personally. We've clarified what we do in China. Compared to our peers, it's very limited in nature... Happy to share and engage with the office to explain our work in China further.||1:24|
|Armstrong||Sundar Pichai (Google)||Get back to Congressman on steps Google took to comply with GDPR||Mr. Pichai, Google has restricted advertising analytics for the portability of user data related to advertising due to compliance with GDPR. Specifically in 2018, Google restricted the ability to export... a cookie-based identifier that compiles individual user data and creates profiles through Google data transfers. Is that correct?||Congressman, not familiar with the specifics of the particular issue, but happy to follow up more once I understand it better.||1:46|
|Armstrong||Sundar Pichai (Google)||Get back to Congressman on Google's engagement with geofence warrants||Geofence warrants allow authorities to compel tech companies to disclose location records for any device, in a certain area, at a particular time... The fourth amendment requires probable cause and specificity... Geofence warrants require neither... Geo warrants are essentially general warrants. I believe that the location information should be considered as contents of the Electronic Communications Act under the Stored Communications Act. Do you agree?||Happy to understand more. This is why we issue transparency reports. We think it's an important area for Congress to have oversight. We recently made a change in which we automatically delete location activity after a certain period of time by default for our users. We are happy to engage with your office, Congressman.||1:50|
|Steube||Sundar Pichai (Google)||Get back to Congressman on recent changes to ranking conservative websites in Search||Was there anything done at Google between a couple of months ago and last week that has changed your approach to silencing conservative websites?||On the specific issue, I will have to look into it. Congressman, we'll do our best to follow up and I'll engage with your office.||2:00|
|Jordan||Sundar Pichai (Google)||Not configure Google to help Joe Biden, or use Search to silence conservatives||Can you give us two assurances: 1) You're not going to try to tailor your features, configure your platform in a way to help Joe Biden 2) That you're not going to use your search engine to silence conservatives?||You have my commitment. It's always been true and we will continue to conduct ourselves in a neutral way.||2:13|
|Buck||Sundar Pichai (Google)||Not use slave labor, nor allow products manufactured using slave labor on platform||Will you agree that slave labor is not something you will tolerate in manufacturing your products, or in products that are sold on your platforms?||I agree, Congressman.||2:52|
|Scanlon||Sundar Pichai (Google)||Get back to Congresswoman on decision makers in purchase of YouTube||Was Mr. Page in charge of that decision [to purchase YouTube after identifying it as a a potential rival that could eventually draw business away from Google]?||Congresswoman, I wasn't directly involved but I'm pretty sure ... I'll definitely look into it.||4:00|
|Scanlon||Sundar Pichai (Google)||Get back to Congresswoman on report that YouTube does not honor content creators' requests on advertising||If there's an organization like Sesame Street that wants to provide child-centered content, but they don't want that content to be sullied with junk food ads, you say that content creators can do that. But we've got a recent report from the Wall Street Journal that says YouTube hasn't been honoring those requests, and it's been making it difficult for independent auditing companies to audit that and then report back to the content creators about whether or not YouTube is honoring those. Is that correct?||I'm not familiar with the particular report, but I'm happy to understand further and follow up with your staff, Congresswoman.||4:03|
|MacBath||Sundar Pichai (Google)||Improve racial and gender equity in senior leadership||Can each of you simply commit to improving racial and gender equity at your companies, including Black leadership, and women in your senior ranks?||Yes||5:21|
|Cicilline||Sundar Pichai (Google)||Get back to Congressman on Google threatening Yelp after stealing its restaurant reviews||In 2010, Google stole restaurant reviews from Yelp to bootstrap its own rival local search business. Mr. Pichai, do you know how Google responded when Yelp asked you to stop stealing their reviews? ... Google's response was to threaten to delist Yelp entirely... Isn't that anticompetitive?||Happy to engage, understand the specifics, and answer your questions further.||0:53|
|Buck||Sundar Pichai (Google)||Get back to Congressman on Google taking advantage of Genius||Your company, which advertises itself as a doorway to freedom, took advantage of this small company all but extinguishing Genius's ability to compete. Google is supposed to connect people to information ... My question to you, Mr. Pichai: Do you think Google could get away with following China's corporate espionage playbook if you didn't have a monopolistic advantage in the market?||First of all, we are proud to support the U.S. government. We recently signed a big project with Department of Defense where we are bringing our world class zero trust-based cybersecurity approach to help protect Pentagon networks from cybersecurity attacks. We have projects underway with the Navy, the Department of Veterans Affairs. Happy to follow up and explain more... With respect to music, we license content from other companies so this is a dispute between Genius and other companies in terms of where the source of the content is. But again, happy to engage and explain what we do here further.||1:12|