New internal documents released Tuesday detail how three of Big Tech’s most prominent companies have prioritized their own products as a means of stifling competition. Their release comes as lawmakers push for stronger antitrust legislation by the end of the year.
The documents were obtained by the House Judiciary Committee as part of a lengthy investigation into anti-competitive behavior by Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook parent company Meta. The investigation ended in 2020, but newly released emails, memos and reports provide new evidence supporting the committee’s calls for tougher competition rules for the tech industry.
“It’s time for Congress to act,” Rep. David Chichillin (D-R), chairman of the antitrust subcommittee, said Tuesday.
In particular, the documents show how Amazon and Google pressured independent smartphone retailers and manufacturers to prefer their products and platforms over those of their competitors. In a January 2014 email, a Google executive raised concerns about a potential new Samsung service that could compete with the company’s “core search service”. In email threads since 2009, Amazon executives have been debating whether to restrict a competitor’s ability to advertise on its site. Amazon later acquired rival Diapers.com in a deal that House investigators say helped the e-commerce giant cement its market dominance.
In another email, Google executives discuss how Amazon’s involvement has changed the market for personal voice assistants. “Amazon has changed the dynamic here,” the heavily redacted email says. “Amazon has a built in incentive to partner with Alexa as they will pull you out of their store if you don’t support it.”
Also included is a long-discussed Facebook memo titled “Possible End States for an App Family.” First reported Information in 2019, a memo describes a “tipping point” where users will start using other Meta-owned apps like Instagram and WhatsApp more than its main platform, Facebook. A 2018 memo was written for CEO Mark Zuckerberg that explained ways the company could moderate the growth of Instagram and WhatsApp so as not to overtake Facebook’s dominance.
“WhatsApp and Facebook coexist as live streaming apps,” the memo says. “It remains unclear whether Instagram and Facebook can coexist… It is unlikely that the three sharing apps can coexist.”
Tuesday’s documents were released along with the committee’s final report, which outlines the results of its investigation and legislative solutions to the competition problems it found. Lawmakers argue that the lack of competition in the tech industry has led to a deterioration in the quality of online products over time. No Republicans signed the report’s recommendations, sending the signal that Democrats may find it harder to push through antitrust reform this year.
“The harm from sweeping antitrust laws will put the United States at a global disadvantage and make things worse for Americans,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel for technology industry group NetChoice, said in a statement Tuesday. “Its reach will go far beyond digital markets: it will reach consumers in every business, every industry, every state.”
However, antitrust advocates continue to pressure lawmakers and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to support bills that would prevent technology platforms from favoring their own products. Last week, antitrust experts and the Consumer Federation of America called on the Senate to pass a bipartisan Internet Innovation and Choice Act.
“From Amazon and Facebook to Google and Apple, there is no doubt that these unregulated tech giants have become too big to care about and too powerful to ever put people over profit,” the House member said Tuesday. representatives of Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).
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